June 10, 2020

Lifecamp Newsletter #3

Pain, Growth, Lifehacks, and How to Pivot Professionally

Hey there,

The world may feel like it’s burning right now, but don’t despair. Growth is painful, and better days lie ahead. We may be on the downslope of the grief cycle from the onslaught of stressful world events 2020 has served up, but the upslope will come.

I have an article on dealing with grief and building resilience in the works. In the meantime, here’s a decent primer on the basics, including how to support others. The key thing is to acknowledge pain (yours and other people’s) rather than rush to move beyond it by trying to fix things too soon. Just as you have to recognize there is a problem before you can solve it, so you must acknowledge pain before healing and growth can begin.

Finding your passion

Speaking of growth, here’s an article called How to Improve Your Self-Awareness and Find Your Dream Job I wrote a couple of months back. It offers you a framework to look beyond your preconceptions of what a particular career or profession entails and figure out what actually matters to you. It can help you identify new vocations you hadn’t previously considered and is a good sense-checker before committing to any work-related moves, making it useful at any stage of your career. Take a look if you’re planning on shaking things up professionally any time soon.

Mental Model of the Month: Inversion

When trying to improve ourselves, we tend to be on the lookout for a smart trick or an extraordinary approach that will elevate us to the next level. That’s cool, but this positive bias is only one side of the equation. What if the key to self-improvement and good results wasn’t about magic flashes of brilliance but was something more mundane? 

What if we inverted our thinking and focused on what not to do instead of trying to find the IRL equivalent of a video game special move? What if, by consistently avoiding mistakes or negative inputs, we become robust, which would naturally lead to improved outcomes? That’s what the mental model of inversion is; identifying and dodging the things that hinder our progress but are often ignored. Because avoiding stupidity is easier than seeking brilliance.

This concept also applies to our role models. We typically look up to people we wish to be like. The problem with this is that we can never be them. In trying to do so, we make it harder to be our authentic self, and we set ourselves up for disappointment.

Instead of focusing on who you want to be like, try focusing on who you don’t want to be like, and avoid doing what they do. This will naturally lead you to act with more integrity. As Nassim Taleb says in The Bed of Procrustes:

“People focus on role models; it is more effective to focus on antimodels—people you don’t want to resemble when you grow up.”

Lifehack #1: Tidy your PC desktop

I’ve always been good at resisting the temptation to save files on my desktop, but I have a habit of keeping shortcuts to folders and apps there instead. I recently removed them all and couldn’t believe how different I felt after my laptop booted up. I am much more relaxed now that I have a clean desktop. I was completely unaware of the low-level anxiety those icons littering the screen were creating for me. I didn’t get a before shot (just imagine the left half of the image covered in shortcut icons), but here’s how it looks now; a clean work environment that makes it easy for me to focus:

Lifehack #2: Make your phone work for you, not against you

If someone suggested that you should carry around a device that frequently interrupts and distracts you throughout your day in a way you had no control over, you would probably think it sounded like a terrible idea. So, why let your phone be that device?

I have been implementing this trick in the last couple of weeks. It’s a simple way to carve out a daily window of time to get shit done:

While you’re at it, turn off all phone notifications that aren’t essential (i.e. 99% of them). That way, you can choose when to engage with your messages and deal with them all in one go. This style of batch processing is the most efficient way to treat email and other information drip-feeds too. If you want to go deeper, set your phone up to work for you by following the steps in this article. It’s a game-changer.

App recommendation: Daylio

I am an advocate of bullet journalling and using hand-written notes to stay organized. The problem with the bullet journal method—which many people use for habit-tracking—is that it doesn’t lend itself well to reporting on what you track in the way a digital app can. I still bullet journal for planning my day and capturing ideas, but I have recently been using the Daylio app to log my daily mood and activities. It uses simple icons and a single text box to capture what you have done each day, making daily logging quick and easy (like two minutes per evening). The interface is slick, and even with the free version, you can customize the icons to reflect your lifestyle. The best thing about it? Automated reporting for your moods and activities. It’s free to download fro the App Store, so check it out if you’re into habit tracking.

Book of the month: Range

In Range, David Epstein expands on Robert Heinlein’s “specialization is for insects” quip to make a case for a multidisciplinary approach to life. He argues that when someone pivots from one field to another, they bring experience and knowledge from outside of the sector. This seemingly unrelated expertise can reframe problems in new ways and offer a different perspective.

Epstein’s central premise runs counter to the commonly held belief that to be excellent at something, you must dedicate your life to it from an early age.

Innovation, by definition, requires new insight and a novel approach. Looking at things with fresh eyes can unearth new solutions to old problems. A lack of familiarity can give you an advantage over so-called experts when it comes to finding novel approaches and solutions. This sounds like a great argument to master ahead of a job interview for anyone contemplating a career change. Recommended reading for people looking to pivot professionally or seeking a breakthrough in their field, and hiring managers who want to bring fresh insight into their team.

Final thought

This newsletter feels like it has a theme of change and growth, so here’s an apt quote to ponder. When I read it out to my wife, her response was, “Challenging!”:

“Your future needs you, your past doesn’t.”

I can’t find who this quote is attributed to, so if anybody knows, please let me know.

Until next time, keep a cool head,