November Notes

“A wise nation should cultivate a political spirit that allows opponents to cooperate without fearing an automatic execution from their core supporters. Who knew that the real rogues in American politics would be the ones who dare to get along?”

Jon Meacham

PRINCIPLE OF THE MONTH:

“Seek to understand, not to be understood”

This is Habit 5 of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. This is a critical and rarely used technique for productive conversation. Identifying disagreements is the lowest form of conversation. Seeking to understand has two components, one of which critical for success but highly uncomfortable for most people. Asking questions is step 1. This is not a painful transition for most to make. Questions are relatively easy to come up with and they tend to inspire more questions. The second is where the pain begins. LISTENING! For many this is extremely uncomfortable and unfamiliar. I love how this is illustrated in Pulp Fiction when when Mrs. Mia Wallace and Vincent Vega are getting to know one another:

Mia asks Vincent, “In conversation, do you listen or wait to talk?” to which Vincent replies, “I have to admit that I wait to talk, but I’m trying harder to listen.

Other than the questionable occupation and the heroin addiction I think we should all strive to be more like Vincent. We can learn a bit from his transparency. If we enter a conversation with understanding as our Desired Outcome it becomes easier to listen productively. This allows us to transition from knowing what people think to why they think it. When we know why someone thinks what they do we rise to a higher level of conversation. We can connect better and address issues from a deeper level. If you understand why people think what they think on a few different subjects a picture of HOW they think begins to emerge. I implore you to persist with this exercise until you reach your first breakthrough and begin to reflect from higher order thinking. I have become more patient and better equipped to navigate conversations towards mutual understanding using this technique, or at the very least recognized and been able to extract myself from conversations with those who refuse to elevate. Strive for progress and not perfection and always root in kindness and patience.

How To Be More Smarterer:

GOOGLE!!!

This may seem like a bit of a low bar but it is step 1 to becoming more smarterer. It is a critical technique and one that is shockingly underused. There is no excuse anymore for navigating the world on assumption. Every single curiosity, or dispute based on fact, needs to be run through a search engine. Google, or any other generalized search engine (aspire to have conversations that lean on or require Wolfram Alpha, but that is for another article) should be step 1 to making sure conversations are starting from as factual of a basis as possible.

  • Side note. Wikipedia is amazing and unless you are engaging in gossip is absolutely a reliable resource. It may get some celebrity stories wrong but it is fueled by nerd power and is as accurate and reliable a source as you will find. It is not perfect, but no resource is. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6889752/

Do you have a question or curiosity that you would normally seek to ask someone about? Google it!!! 10 minutes clicking through some search results, doing a little reading, and watching a video or 2 will not make you an expert in anything, but it will allow you to ask better questions. Experts in advanced fields do this. Astronauts and surgeons do it. Make it a habit. Make it a first impulse. It will make the process of pre researching topics a habit. This habit is a super power. “10 things you didn’t know about X” is one of the most enlightening search parameters and I am frequently rewarded when I use it. “I never thought of that” is one of my favorite reactions to have and creative searches are a limitless source. Replace the impulse to ask a person first with the impulse to do some surface level research.

Exercise: Google how to make scrambles eggs. (if you’re not a fan of eggs pick your favorite dessert). See how far you can take it. See what you can find that you didn’t expect to uncover. Try different search parameters like “easiest” or “world’s best”.

Favorites of the month: In this section I am going to pick some of the my favorite blogs, podcasts, lessons, products, advices, etc. for the month. Not going to go too deep into them, just point in directions I have explored. I will also try to keep them off the beaten path to maximize the value.

“If you read what everyone else is reading, you will end up thinking what everyone else is thinking”

Podcast: Lex Fridman: Artificial Intelligence Podcast. This thing is incredible. I can’t say enough about it so I won’t. I will give specific interview suggestions in future letters posts but start anywhere. Hands down the most fascinating podcast in the world hearing the most brilliant minds chopping it up.

Blog: Farnham Street. fs.blog. An autodidacts dream. Some of the most fascinating explorations of mental models you will find anywhere. Witty and insightful and packed with countless actionable gems of knowledge.

Lesson: This will just be lessons or exercises I have found great value in. Simple but lifechanging things I have learned along the way and a simple lesson to follow. Try them for a month and let me know what you found valuable or not so much. Let’s start with the big game changer.

Meditate!

If you do not meditate start immediately. Don’t overcomplicate this.

Start by just laying down and closing your eyes and softly counting as you breathe. in your head say 1 as you breathe in and 1 as you breathe out. 2 in, and 2 out. Your mind will intrude almost immediately. Spend a few minutes before bed doing this exercise. Don’t get impatient or frustrated. Just notice when thoughts intrude and start over. It took me a looong time just to get to 10. Don’t breathe any special way, don’t force anything and just enjoy the quiet. For many of us it may be the only 5 or 10 minutes we get throughout a day where our attention isn’t under constant assault. Just being able to get from 2 to 5 silent breathes is an accomplishment on par with losing 10 pounds of unwanted fat. As you get better at noticing the intrusions faster you will find that throughout normal life you will reflexively recognize intrusive thoughts. The cool thing is that they often go away upon being noticed. At the very least we have an opportunity to refocus. Such a tiny fleeting moment but as these add up it is a game changer. Victories won an inch at a time add up to freedom from being trapped in repeating thoughts. I apologize if the longer than intended explanation was laid on a little thick but there is a reason meditation is considered a superpower by the best and brightest among us.

Thank you for reading my first monthly newsletter. Any and all feedback is welcome, I will engage as much as possible and I welcome any questions and comments. I wish everyone growth and happiness and please as we navigate a most difficult year always stay grounded in kindness and patience. We are all in this together.

*Disclaimer: I self edit this blog and will often post before thoroughly checking for grammar and flow in an attempt to avoid not publishing. I suffer from every possible form of attention deficit issue and completion anxiety. I have drafts that have been sitting in editing limbo for over 3 years. So in the interest of transparency I wanted to share this as both an excuse for imperfection and an explanation for any errors missed. “Perfect is the enemy of done”

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