I overheard a conversation about New Years resolutions last week. In it the guys were talking about long lists of New Years resolutions. And I of course was thinking about my own. But then for some reason a snippet from Milan Kundera quote popped into my head “there are only two ways to define the self: addition and subtraction.” That has always rung true to me. I switch between addition and subtraction. When the to do lists get too long often I will simplify it to just one of each. Out of all the possible things I could do (addition) and not do (subtraction), what is the most impactful one of each I tan think of for this project? For 2019 mine are
Add: more personal time with my employees at upgrade labs
One of my favorite tools of self analysis is the via character strength profile . I hear a lot of advice (which i agree with) that people should play to their strengths and not avoid their fears. But what are my strengths ? Character strengths? This tool tells you. My top six are Creativity, love of learning, perspective, honesty, perseverance (resilience), and judgement. Pretty much straight up ceo stuff. That makes sense.
The more I read the Stoics, the more I agree with the general approach to life. I am also fascinated that, without the aide of much science, they got so many things right. We now know through Quantum Physics that everything is some form of energy wave. We are all made of the same stuff, just vibrating at different frequencies so some appear solid, some fluid, some alive, some dead, etc. Modern quantified spirituality guys like Dr. Joe Dispenza call it the “Universal Field”. I have no idea what it is, but the Stoics, and Marcus, in particular, nailed it. Basically, we are all connected, made of the same stuff. So remember that when you get tilted by someone. A part of them is you and vice versa. Would you be so tilted at yourself?
I just answered the Moral Machine self driving car scenarios and i did it honestly unlike it seems most respondents. This is one of the artifacts of surveys like this. The issue comes down to what reference point are you applying to your answer? When asked “moral dilemmas” most people try to answer what they think others want to hear, they take the “what if my answer were published in the New York Times?” Approach, typically choosing whatever is politically popular today. That is why in this survey the average respondent to the “protect passengers” questions are exactly in the middle. Indifferent. Yet is everyone really indifferent?
To combat this bias I took the purposeful approach of answering the question not as if were some theoretical car with theoretical people. I decided to answer as if it were my car with my family in it and I didn’t know the animals or pedestrians. That is the 99.9% real life scenario. When I buy a self driving car I want it to have variables that I can configure on these kinds of things. And I for one will set it to always protect me and my family. When researchers ask the question this way (your family in the car) they in fact find that there is a significant preference to protect the passengers.
When reading these kinds of survey results. Always ask yourself it the designers considered the frame of reference correctly and if you were in the car with your children would you answer differently
Remember that your body has three types of fuel source. Switching between them has benefits. Know which state you are in. Know which state you need to be in to reach any goal you have.
How the economy works: Ray Dalio
My friend TA McCann just started a new podcast, How to Live to 200. I was one of his first guests. We talk about how I got sucked into the Biohacking world, some of the quantified ways I have gotten younger over the last year, and a few peeks into the crystal ball on upgrades coming down the pipe for the rest of us.
Today from Daily Stoic, came a list of tasks which I am finding useful. When you have half an hour, pick up one of these and do it. It will build character.
[*] Throw away or give away stuff you have but don’t use anymore.
[*] Skip a meal. You’ll be fine. Remember what hunger feels like.
[*] See if you can go an hour without talking.
[*] Wear your worst clothes out. See how little anyone cares.
[*] Don’t read. Don’t do anything. Just sit there.
[*] Throw a rock up in the air. Watch it go up and watch it go down. (This is a metaphor.)
[*] Find something you’re not good at and practice being better at it. Write with your non-dominant hand, etc.
[*] If today was your last day on earth, who would you thank? Thank them. Who would you apologize to? Apologize to them. Who would you cherish? Cherish them.
[*] Take a walk.
[*] Think of the worst thing someone has ever done to you. Now say to yourself, “I forgive you.”
[*] Step outside tonight and just look up at the stars.
As I have been reminded many times of the importance of purpose and taking agency over the decisions in my life, I see it again in a Harvard Business School instructor comment about HBS Graduates:
“I can guarantee you that not a single one of them graduated with the deliberate strategy of getting divorced and raising children who would become estranged from them. And yet a shocking number of them implemented that strategy.”
So a bunch of really really smart people had their lives turn out different than they planned or even intended or even dreamed of. It is not a matter of resources or smarts.
“The reason? They didn’t keep the purpose of their lives front and center as they decided how to spend their time, talents, and energy.”
Now this brings up two points.
- did these people KNOW, or are they aware of the “Purpose” of their lives? Or was their purpose just at odds with the family and kids?
- Did they understand the amount of Agency they had in their own lives?
Agency and Purpose are intertwined. And Purpose comes in different forms. What has happened in my own life that led to my divorce was that the Purpose toward which I spent the vast majority of my time, talent, and energy (career and money) ended up in opposition to the Purpose of getting married and sharing my life with my wife. I didn’t realize that until it was too late. In fact, I thought I was doing it all right. Grow up, get married, then make lots of $$ to take care of the family and give them all the opportunities in life. Put my needs behind the needs of the family for money. But the balance got off. And half my money left with half my heart. It is a common story. One that can be avoided with more awareness of a couple things.
- What is the purpose toward which 90-95% of your time, talent, and energy is going.
- Is that in alignment with your my long term goals?
- Am I exercising the Agency that I do have to choose the purpose that I am supporting with the time, talent and energy?
In the past I have gotten into trouble when:
- I have not stopped to ask the above three questions
- I have not recognized the amount of Agency I do have and exercised the Agency. I have let others decide for me.
A couple weeks ago I went to China. Of all the amazing things and people I saw and met there, one of the most striking things for me was The Great Wall. On the ride out there my eager guide was telling me all sorts of stories about rulers and clans and infighting and this guy built X many KM of the wall and that guy built Y KM. It all sounded like bees buzzing until she said she said: “at one point ruler XYZ had 1/5 of the entire population of China working on the wall, over 1,000,000 people and over 300,000 troops.” Wait, What? 20% of the entire country on one project? Building one technology? And that technology is now falling down and completely obsolete? 20% of the national resources on something today totally useless. Wow. A couple thoughts came up:
- There is NOTHING today that you could get 20% of Americans to work on all together. Ok, in China that 20% was basically slaves, but I am even thinking of any common project that we could all voluntarily agree on is in the national interest. Could we get 20% of us to do anything? Unlikely.
- That is a massive investment in technology, in this case, defensive technology, that served for a time and is not completely and utterly useless. Literally falling down and of no use other than tourism. All those resources and dead people, thousands of years of effort. Now obsolete. How many of our current massive investments will be obsolete even that much sooner? What massive efforts am I making today that will be useless even 10 years from now?
- Man, the command and control economy has some benefits.
Now when I think if the Great Wall, I think about technological change and investment. How massive investments in technology can become useless. How the timing must be right. China likely got their money’s worth out of that technology. But it is no longer useful. Everything has a useful life. No investment lasts forever.