No. 487 — August 28st, 2022
Brain Food is a weekly newsletter full of timeless insights.
“People’s confidence in their intuition is not a good guide to their validity.”
My conversation with LA Rams GM Les Snead on building a championship team, hidden production, assessing character, hiring the right coach, and applying lessons from other domains. Even if you’re not a football fan, this episode is packed with insights that apply to business and life.
“So a lot of the stress and anxiety comes professionally, but raising children, you’re going to go through (stressful) moments. But even in those moments with children and they’ve failed, they’ve made errors, you as a father, you’re trying. We like to say sometimes just go outside, lay down, and look up at the stars. And there’s that meditative where, okay, this is a big planet. Tomorrow’s probably going to be here and whatever happened today, there’s a chance it gets better tomorrow. And what I do know is once the emotions of whatever happened dissipates, there’s actually learning, there’s an adventure to be had.”
Eventually, everyone loses the battle with willpower. The only question is when.
Several years ago, two of my friends started eating differently around the same time. One of them went on a diet. The other thought a diet was too complicated and created a rule about eating the healthiest thing on the menu no matter where he was.
They both ate out a lot for work so they often found themselves in situations requiring them to make healthy choices. The dieter relied on willpower and was inconsistent. Good days were followed by bad days. The rule-follower, on the other hand, flawlessly executed his algorithm.
As weeks turned to months, their paths diverged. The dieter saw no progress and became frustrated when the rule follower shed pounds.
Rules are an effective way of creating an artificial environment. Think about it, you’ve been taught your whole life to follow the rules. Follow the speed limit. Don’t run in the hallway. Do what you’re told. Everywhere you look there are rules, rules, rules. No one taught us how to use rules to our advantage. Since rules are very powerful at shaping behavior, they can help us get what we want.
Automatic rules turn the best choice into the default choice.
What do you think future you wishes present you was doing more of? Some universal answers crop up where you’re currently using willpower for desired behavior. Future you wishes you’d sleep more, drink less, exercise, and eat better.
When you find yourself using willpower to make the choices your future self wants you to make, try creating an automatic rule instead.
- Naval Ravikant’s manifesto on reading.
- “That’s the mimetic trap in a nutshell: it hurts to leave, and there’s nowhere to go. It decouples the social reward signal from the rest of objective reality — you can spend years ascending ranks in a hierarchy without producing anything that the rest of humanity finds valuable.”
- “Richard Feynman was fond of giving the following advice on how to be a genius. You have to keep a dozen of your favorite problems constantly present in your mind, although by and large they will lay in a dormant state. Every time you hear or read a new trick or a new result, test it against each of your twelve problems to see whether it helps. Every once in a while there will be a hit.”
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