onsdag 27 augusti 2014

Camouflaged charlatans and empty quotes

Many words from Ludvig Sunström at Start Gaining Momentum about how to enjoy the benefits of being perceived as being an expert, without investing the time to actually become one. Not least, I like the tangible advice of writing a book with minimum effort and using it as your 'expert platform' to achieve the superstar effect.

25 almost completely (in my opinion) empty quotes from Self Habit. What I took away from this post and put on my Wall of Wisdom was "Question all quotes", i.e. always think hard about what a quote really means and implies, what its consequences would be. It is all too easy to be enchanted by the elegant wording or by the disguised or camouflaged charlatan* being quoted.

Here is, however, a thought provoking interview with Ludvig Sunström, posted at the same Self Habit (which also is a blog worth reading, especially if your particular aim is to become productive). Ludvig Sunström himself also runs an excellent self improvement/development blog called Start Gaining Momentum.

Unlike me, Mr Sunström is actually good at writing, so write he does... Most of his blog posts are very long, albeit still easy to read if you have the time. I don't agree with everything he says but any young person, striving to get ahead in this world, could do worse than heed Ludvig's advice.

Compared to me (lazy, ad-hoc, chaotic), Ludvig comes through as a perfectly efficient automáta. Here are a few examples where we are almost exact opposites:
  • He describes himself as "focused" (I'm everything but; lazy and ad-hoc)
  • His favourite quote is something about how much effort people are prepared to exercise to avoid having to think (I don't have a favourite quote**)
  • He starts his days going through the most urgent stuff on his to-do list (I just do important stuff when I feel like it)
  • He describes his "scientific" and elaborate decision process, including one with listing pros and cons. (I make decisions intuitively, trusting my subconscious knows way more than I do, both about the problem at hand and my deepest preferences)
  • He thinks Napoleon Bonaparte would give good advice (I know of no historic person whose advice I would take***)

On the other hand, we share these similarities:
  • He goes to the gym (However, he does it to de-stress. I don't really know why I go)
  • Non-conformity
  • Single-tasking
  • Flow

In addition, I'm inspired by his upcoming project of compiling rules of thumb from a number of experts. That goes hand in hand with my 20 skills in a year project, or 1/50 rule of efficiency (1% effort for 50% of the results)

*camouflaged charlatan - anybody successful in one area, behaving as if an expert in another area. E.g., a football coach giving stock market advice, or a hedge fund manager winning an Hedge Fund of The Decade award (yes, me), professing to be an expert on pumping iron or philosophy ;)

**quotes: Sometimes even I stumble upon quotes that inspire me. I wouldn't call them favourites, and I'm not sure they will stand the test of time, but here are a few I like right now.

When you come to a fork in the road, take it - Yogi berra
May you live in interesting times - ancient curse (however, not Chinese, it seems)
If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading - Lao-Tzu
Know yourself - Delphic maxim (possibly by Chilon, Thales, Phemonoe or Socrates or 10 others)
Don't be a hater

Stop hating

***advice: I had never thought about whose advice I would take, but the interview made me think about a couple of candidates:

Bertrand Russell
Thomas Jefferson
Ray Kurzweil
Howard Marks
Ayn Rand

12 kommentarer:

  1. Hey,

    Thanks for the mention.

    You make a good point regarding not trusting charlatans. Seeing as how you work / worked in the financial industry, you probably read all of Nicholas Nassim Taleb's stuff? He talks a lot about charlatans.

    Re the interview:
    I am certainly not a "perfectly efficient automata". But I try to be :)

    I am actually very big on using my subconscious mind for making (big) decisions. I have several methods for doing this. The pros & cons method is just one.

    I don't think the conscious mind (thinking) is a good way to solve problems. As you surely know, the subconscious mind is MUCH faster.

    I actually left you a rather lengthy comment a few days ago on your article about PewDiePie. Did you not get that comment?

    1. Thanks.

      Well if you do aim to be a robotly efficient, take my description as a compliment :). I don't judge and I am fascinated by productivity monsters. I'm just not one of them; quite the opposite.

      Unfortunately I didn't get your comment on PDP. I re-checked just now and there is only one comment there, and it is not lengthy and not yours.

      Too bad. I like comments, the longer the better (yes, I'm trawling).

      And, yes I have read Taleb, but surely not everything. I do follow him on FB though, but I must say his books are better than his FB persona.

    2. I saw your g+, however. Still not really lengthy ;)

  2. * Correction:

    " I don't think using only the conscious mind (thinking) is a good way to solve problems"

    1. Got it!

      I actually do (or did) pro/con-lists but always came to the conclusion that it always was just one of the list items that outweighed everything else. However, doing the list probably helps the subconscious in selecting which one it is.

    2. Alright. My favorite strategy for using the subconscious is when I am writing or thinking, and I follow a stream of thought up to a point where I can't make it any further. Then I sit down and quickly write my reasoning down up to that point. Then I write down that question.

      If it's seems important I'll put it in my "daily lessons" section (in OneNote), which I review from time to time, and always once monthly. If it's a very important question, or if it pertains to business, I will put it in a section I call "The Questions". And in there I have an excel table with 4 categories/segments.
      1 = date 2 = description 3 = pros 4 = cons
      Then I write things down there and review from time to time.

      Then I'll go for a run, go lift weights, read a book, or do something else for a while. And often the answer will magically pop up for me. But the key is to first get it out of my head, follow the reasoning as far as possible (indicate to the lazy brain that it was something important worth the energy & effort) and write it down.

      It could also be that I am one of those people who learn things better from writing. We all have different learning styles. No system is infallible. Mozart, for example, wrote several pages (by hand) per day and left behind a pile of journals when he died. But he never looked in those journals, he just wrote to learn. Once he had written something ONCE he forever remembered it. He was a special guy.

      Of course, then there are audible learners like Churchill. He could memorize large segments of lectures verbatim, just from listening. . .

      . . . And people who learn by speaking, like Hitler, who had the habit of giving monologues. Because he had this habit wired into him strongly, and because he early in life prioritized his learning, he mostly hung around people who liked to listen. So that he could talk for himself all the time.

      Alright, I'll just write my Pewdiepie analysis here instead (what I can remember):

      --First off, yeah he clearly does have a first-mover advantage. It's MUCH harder to get "famous" on YouTube now than it was before. That being said he's obviously super talented and consistent/persistent.

      He also seems to have ADHD or something like that. He seems extremely extroverted. That should count as a big strength as far as his YouTube career goes. That would've been a bad thing for most traditional jobs, but "luckily" he found an activity which was conducive to natural strengths early in life and started practicing.

      --Second, regarding why people don't compete with him and make better gaming-inspired humor videos.
      I believe the biggest challenge for other people stems from a powerful combinatorial effect of psychological biases, AKA lollapalooza effect (from Charlie Munger). When they come together people simply don't take action, the challenge seems unsurmountable.

      A few examples:

      1) Pewdiepie has millions (billions?) of subscribers and views on his videos. You don't get much stronger social proof than that.

      2) Pewdiepie is extremely at easy with himself, and 'owns' his weird personality in a 'charismatic' way --to his viewers at least. ( I find him very annoying and don't watch him). Using the contrast bias / anchoring, most people even have guts to start their own channels and do something similar. . .

      3). . . Feel awfully insecure and bad because they're comparing themselves to him. And they definitely will not be able to act as confidently as he is. . .

    3. 4) At least not for the first few months. And most people don't understand this. They don't know much about psychology. So when they feel uncomfortable they will quit quickly. They won't stick to the video-producing for several months consistently and incrementally overcome that "fear barrier" and trust in their brains adaptability.

      5) A variation of 3) & 4); Most people don't dare to be "public figures" and show their faces on the Internet. I'm sure you felt the same way when you first started blogging. . . Only most people never get over that fear. So they never get enough first-hand experience (which is needed to create a new sense of reality) to support the belief that "people like me when I am the real me".
      To get those experiences under your belt is something most people have to pace themselves into over time. It's uncomfortable at first -- all sorts of irrational fears kick in, especially for "normal people" who have an overly active amygdala. This fear makes them think things like: "If I show my face here I'll never get a job... People will make fun of me...." etc, all different variations of the primal fear of being kicked out of the tribe.

      I myself used to be a hardcore gamer until about 3 years ago when I turned my life around. I grew up with lots of people who played video games all day long, many of them quite good at it.

      Many of those people could (still can) create a channel on YouTube, or a lifestyle blog, or something like that... But they won't. The fear is too big. And it's too far away from their reality. I don't see any of them ever doing it.

    4. Your method for writing progress is inspiring, and I hope a lot of people see your comment (or a future blog post from you) and follow your lead (perhaps not exactly, but in a way adapted to their specific personalities).

      I kind of do what you do, but not in a structured way. I don't have a schedule for going back to review notes. Well, I don't have a structure to put down notes to begin with... :). However, sometimes I scroll down my own blog to read my old posts and that often triggers new ideas. perhaps I should do it more often... but then again, no, I don't like structure and agendas.

      I have also noted that my best ideas pop up when doing physical activities or at least not thinking about "problems" or searching for ideas. The thing, though, is that I don't have problems and I don't really search for ideas (anymore). Enough ideas just come to me during the course of an ordinary day (when walking, listening to podcasts, reading blogs, writing a post or just lifting weights). Perhaps you could say, I am so structured (I have my walks and workouts scheduled about 5 times a week) that I don't need a process for releasing my creativity.

    5. Regarding PDP... great analysis.

      But, still... Among all the millions of gamers in general and 30 million PDP subscribers in particular, not even a handful of talented, driven, fear-less extroverts...?

    6. Yes, I have an article on this (and more). I will publish it sometime in the next months. The article is about how to "force" creativity. It includes some extremely useful strategies used by many of the best, "most creative" copywriters, admen, and authors.


      Regarding the subconscious.

      Seems like you know what you're doing. It's all about knowing yourself -- and it appears you do.


      I guess we'll see. But I wouldn't bet on it. The psychological barrier is incredibly strong. It's similar (although not quite as extreme) to asking:
      "But why didn't anyone rebel against Hitler? Why didn't they replace him with a better leader after he was in power and the Germans realized he wasn't the best choice for the country!?"

      [Note: Actually, Claus von Stauffenberg and his crew did do just that. And Johann Georg Elser (a carpenter) did too. But they both failed, and Hitler ascribed his survival to being chosen by Providence -- which reinforced people's belief in him as the chosen leader.]

      [Note 2: So, even though the statistics and probability should point towards someone doing these things, those statistics don't take the psychology into account. It really is THAT powerful on the human brain. 99,9 % won't even dare to TRY because the odds of failure are so overwhelming (fear of failure). 0,1 % WILL try, but most of them will quit in the first few months before seeing results. The few who do continue longer are driven to do so either by a very strong desire / ambition, or because they have already had first-hand experience which tells them it IS possible to achieve success and eventually "beat PDP". And out of those people, only a minimal % stand a chance of "beating PDP" because of how much power and resources he has (money, network, and followers).]

    7. You may have noticed I made a blog post of your comment, since the comment was public anyway: