No. 500 – November 27th, 2022
Welcome to the 500th edition of Brain Food, a weekly newsletter full of ideas and insights that never expire.
The Two Mindsets:
“The other thing exceptional people seem to have is a special talent for converting life’s setbacks into future successes.”
Kunal Shah on the contrast between stated and real motivations:
“A lot of times, the real motivation is different from what people say is the real motivation. For example, buying expensive headphones, they are not really to make you hear better. You want to signal to the world that you are affluent and you have status and good taste.”
— Listen and Learn on FS or read the transcript.
“Study hard what interests you the most in the most undisciplined, irreverent, and original manner possible.”
— Richard Feynman
Something I try to teach the kids: Every ordinary moment is an opportunity to make the future easier or harder.
When they engaged in ineffective behavior I used to ask them if what they were doing is going to help them get what they wanted. Now I ask them if they’re using gasoline or water. The visual is a powerful (and often humorous) way for them to pause and ask themselves if what they’re doing is making things easier or harder.
Sometimes we pause a conversation or action, and I ask them, “if we wanted to pour gasoline on this, what would it look like?” their responses often give us something to laugh about. Then I ask them, “what would it look like to pour water on this?” Then I hit “unpause!” and step away. They rarely choose to add fuel to the fire.
Here’s an example of how it plays out in real life. Last night my oldest stepped on the toe of his younger brother, which started to get heated as the youngest instinctively reacted. I walked by and said, “Pause! … I don’t want to know what happened. Just tell me, if you wanted to pour gasoline on this fire, how would you do it?” I listened and then followed up with, “if you wanted to pour water on this fire, how would you do it?” Then I said, “unpause!” and watched them both choose water as I walked away.
With water or gasoline, you can start a fire, make it bigger, or put it out. The choice is yours.
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Why speed matters:
“Part of the activation energy required to start any task comes from the picture you get in your head when you imagine doing it. It may not be that going for a run is actually costly; but if it feels costly, if the picture in your head looks like a slog, then you will need a bigger expenditure of will to lace up. Slowness seems to make a special contribution to this picture in our heads. Time is especially valuable. So as we learn that a task is slow, a special cost accrues to it. Whenever we think of doing the task again, we see how expensive it is, and bail. That’s why speed matters.”
Scents and Sensibility:
“You don’t have to dabble for very long to begin to realize that the world of smell has no reliable maps, no single language, no comprehensible metaphorical structure within which we might comprehend it and navigate our way around it.”
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