January 16, 2022
Welcome to Sunday Brain Food: a weekly newsletter full of timeless ideas and insights for life and business.
(Was this shared with you? Sign up here.)
The difference between average results and exceptional ones is what you avoid. Saying no to mediocre opportunities is easy. Saying no to good opportunities is hard.
Philosopher Ryan Holiday came on The Knowledge Project. We go deep on his reading and writing habits, why journaling is the key to reflection and learning, the four virtues of Stoicism, and how to calm your mind.
Listen on: FS, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, YouTube, or access transcripts.
Explore Your Curiosity
“Looking at the Merlin Vacuum engine is perhaps the best way to summarize methods of engine cooling, as this engine employs almost every type of cooling.”
— Engine Cooling: Why Rocket Engines Don’t Melt
“Confidence in a forecast rises with the amount of information that goes into it. But the accuracy of the forecast stays the same. And when it comes to forecasting—as opposed to doing something—a lot of expertise is no better than a little expertise. And may even be worse.”
— Trying Too Hard (PDF)
“A year from now you will wish you had started today.”— Karen Lamb
“Environment is the invisible hand that shapes human behavior.” — James Clear
Your environment is the hidden force that guides behavior. One reason it’s so effective is that it speaks to your subconscious mind and not your conscious mind.
Default behaviors love the path of least resistance. Not only does our environment choose that path but it pushes us in that direction.
Most of the time when we think of ‘environment’ we think only of our visible environment. Consider your house. Seeing a bag of chips on the counter makes eating healthy harder. In the same way, removing chips from the house altogether makes eating them harder. To get a bag of chips you have to get in your car and go to the store.
If we limit our understanding of environmental influences only to what we can see, we miss a large part of its powerful force. Let’s look at hidden environmental forces that shape our behavior.
We become what we consume. What you read today becomes the raw material of your thoughts tomorrow. High-quality inputs offer high-quality raw materials to assemble in the future. A person with an environment with rich sources of information makes better choices than someone consuming low-quality sources of information. Not only do they have better raw material, but they also have a broader perspective and a calmer mind. The same applies to food. What we eat today is what we become tomorrow. All things being equal, the person that eats healthier will live longer and avoid more problems than someone who does not.
Who we spend time with matters. My grandfather, like many, used to tell me you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. A lot of wisdom, like this, gets easily dismissed because it’s not entirely accurate. That’s unfortunate because it’s very useful. By choosing who you spend time with today, you change your trajectory tomorrow.
Another bit of wisdom hiding in plain sight is that people tend to hang around people like themselves. That explains why if your friends watch TV every night, you eventually will too. You can take this in all sorts of directions. If you spend a lot of time with people who are kind and thoughtful, you will act that way too. If you spend time with people who share a certain politics, you eventually see things similarly. It also explains why, if you start spending time with people who are unlike you in certain ways you want to cultivate, you will become like them. All of this happens without conscious awareness.
By choosing who you spend time with you are also choosing who you want to be. This is the environmental force at work on your subconscious and your biological instincts.
Here are three lessons you can take from this:
1. Curate your information diet to be rich and diverse. Follow people who think differently than you. Read old books. Remember that what you put into your mind today is the raw material you have to work with tomorrow.
2. Surround yourself with people whose default behavior is your desired behavior. If you want to run more, join a group that runs every day. Spend less time with people whose default behavior isn’t your desired behavior.
3. Design your environment knowing it will influence your future self. You can easily make undesired behaviors harder and desired behaviors easier.
Understanding the invisible influence of your environment allows you to turn your desired behaviors into default behaviors.
(Share this Tiny Thought on Twitter)
P.S. Natural stone circles.