Monthly Archives: April 2014

Life Lessons March 2014

Avoid Denial - If you have to lie or exaggerate to make something true, it’s not true.

Sometimes Give Up or Let it Go - Give up resentments, regret, etc.   Life is a repetition of finding something you want, finding out how you can get it, and then trying to get it.  If you’re not able to get it for whatever reason or circumstance, move on and cope with it.  Don’t let that one unrewarded desire ruin your entire experience of life or of that event (Guide to Handling Emotions and Problems).

Conversations

  • When you play devil’s advocate, tell the people involved so they don’t think you’re being a jerk or get too emotionally involved unnecessarily.
  • If someone gives you advice, acknowledge it first before you start contradicting it or giving excuses.  If you don’t acknowledge it first, they will feel like you’re arguing against their good will and they will be discouraged from trying to help you in the future.

Decision Making

  • Time or Money - The concept of trading time for money and vice versa is common knowledge to most: you can spend time doing it yourself to save money, or spend money for someone else to do the work and save yourself time.  The problem I realized with this line of thinking is that it doesn’t take into account experiences, skills, and opportunities.  When you do something yourself, you have an opportunity to learn a skill and gain life experience; when you pay someone else to do it, you lose those opportunities.  Thus, it is better to ask questions like “Is it better to spend time learning how to cook, or save that time by eating out?” than to only look at it from a money and time point of view with a question like “should I save time or money?”
  • Opportunities - Too many people, when faced with an opportunity, look for a reason to take it: why yes?  I think that this way of living will result in a considerably less adventurous life, because for all the opportunities you have no preference over, you won’t take and will miss out on.  Instead ask yourself: why not?  And then take the opportunity if there’s nothing stopping you.  That way, you’ll try more new things, live a more exciting, adventurous, and interesting life, while still protecting what you want to because if it was dangerous you would have a reason to not do it.
  • Teamwork vs. Singles – I have treated most of my activities as solo events. Only recently did I start playing on teams and learning teamwork, and as a result I have recently learned about teamwork.  The mark of the solo player’s mentality when playing on a team is that the player will try to win the point on his or her own, only relying on a teammate when the attempt fails.  The teamwork mentality is to not only look for opportunities to win yourself, but to try and set up situations when your teammate can win the point, rather than only setting it up for yourself to win the point.

Study/Learning/Education Strategy

  • Learning to Ignore/Filter - My default strategy towards any problem in the past was to just learn everything about it before starting to work on the solution.  This worked very well in school where each class had a limit on how much knowledge was taught, so when I tried to learn “everything” it was actually possible.  However, now that I’m outside of school, if I try to learn everything about a problem prior to solving it, I’ll never start the problem because there’s no limit on what I can learn.  As a result, I realized I need to learn how to set boundaries for my learning so that it doesn’t go on forever.  To set the right boundaries,  I need to recognize when I’m learning something that’s going to help me achieve my goal, and when I’m just learning something related to the goal, but won’t help me achieve it.  For example, if I want to build an Ikea chair, reading the instructions in English will help me achieve that goal, learning Swedish so that I can read the instructions in its native language is unnecessary.
  • Perceiving and Skill - I used to make the mistake of seeing only two skill levels: professional, and not.  However, this is a binary view of the world that, like all binary views of the world, is oversimplified and inaccurate.  In fact, binary views of the world is usually an indication that someone doesn’t know much about that topic, because if they did, they would be able to see and notice the small details that distinguish the wide range of skill levels people fall into.  Recently, I had to find my place on the non-professional range of tennis skill levels.  This was eye opening to me because in order for me to find what my skill level was, I had to do two things: watch videos of players at each level to see and understand what advantages or deficiencies each level had, and then honestly and objectively look at myself and how I was playing.  Two lessons came out of this: first, my approach to learning changed from blindly improving until someday I break through to the professional level, to a step by step approach through a pre-defined system (I was never one to understand, care for, or participate in systems in the past, and always rebelled against them…now I understand why they’re in place, and therefore am more willing to accept them).  Second, I learned to pay more attention to myself and my game.  What I used to do instead was keep track of the kinds of people I played and beat, and I used that as a metric for how good I was, instead of looking at myself and getting an objective idea of my skill level.  Look inward, not outward, for improvement.
  • Time to Learn a Skill – Lately, I have been grossly underestimating the ramp up time required to get up to speed on something.  This is because when I was younger I didn’t notice it–parents and school systems made and kept me to my commitments for years and years, so when I suddenly started doing things well, I figured it happened instantly.  It’s only now that I’m in control of my commitments and experiencing first hand consciously learning a skill from start to finish that I am realizing how long it actually takes for the compound interest and long term training over years and years to add up.  Furthermore, when I used to jump from one discipline to the next and learn it quickly, I would again think it’s because it doesn’t take me long to learn things.  Now I know it’s because I happened to switch from a very similar activity, basically cross-training those skills for years prior, which is why I was able to transition quickly.
  • Athleticism and Skill - I used to think I was skilled at certain sports because I could beat people at a high skill level, but as I’ve become more experienced at judging skill levels, what I have discovered about myself is that in the past, I was able to play at a higher skill level than I should have simply because I was able to compensate for lack of skill by having extreme athleticism.  This is why now that I have lost my athleticism, I find myself playing at a skill level much lower than I imagined I could drop to.  But this is a good opportunity for me to learn skill while my athleticism slowly returns.  (How does athleticism compensate for skill? If you’re athletic enough to somehow always survive your opponents attacks, it is basically impossible for your opponent to win.  If you play the waiting game, eventually your opponent will get tired, make a mistake, and you get the win.)

Focus

  • Training - The idea that some skills complement each other (martial arts, running, and badminton) and some skills contradict each other (badminton, tennis, table tennis).  Focus your skill development by cross training intelligently.
  • Working on a computer - Time to completion refers to how long it takes to complete a task.  Time to distraction refers to how long it takes to get distracted.  If you want to be productive, you will want to keep time to distraction longer than time to completion.  You can do this by either modifying your environment to make distractions more difficult, or you need to learn how to resist the temptation and through willpower make distractions unlikely.  In the past I would modify the environment by removing the computer, but today I can’t because my work is done on the computer, so I must learn willpower.
  • Commitments – Due to limited time and resources, you have to balance how many activities you want to focus on with how good you want to be at them. You can rotate through various activities and be above average at many things, or focus so hard on being exceptional at one that other skills suffer, or pick a few to be good at and be mediocre at the rest; what you decide to do is based on your preference and your personality.  Alternatively, you can not care about how good you get, and just focus on having fun.  Whatever is your preference, find it and do it.  

Story #1

The linchpin of this month was my near death experience: I suffered extreme dehydration, starvation, and sleep deprivation.  A combination of factors led to this, and will serve as the lessons learned: in the Month of February, I started to get discouraged by my pace of progress.  What had originally been a three month goal, one and a half months in, began looking like a two year timeline.  Having no income, my Perception of Money – Rich vs. Poor as a poor person caused me to attempt drastic measures to save money.  I cut my spending by 80%, nearly all of it in the food department.  So imagine suddenly spending the next month eating 5x less food, while exercising 2x more than before to train for and compete in a dance competition in that month, all while not getting enough sleep because of the stress and anxiety brought on by the impending doom and failure of your life’s work.
The takeaway lessons from this are as follows
  • In my budgeting calculations, food is no longer a discretionary expense, but a non-discretionary expense.
  • I learned that while the world is sometimes a cruel place, not all the blame can be externalized: some of the cruelty is self inflicted, and the sooner you take responsibility for it, the sooner you can make choices and decisions that don’t result in self torture.
  • Sickness and Health – Rich vs. Poor I am going to accept that I have escaped from extreme poverty, and that I should upgrade my standard of living from fighting for survival to fighting for good health.

Life Lessons Feb 2014

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Wise Fortune Cookie Says

  • The road before you is long, drive safely.
  • Genius does what it must, and talent does what it can.
  • One attachment: The tighter you squeeze, the less you have.
  • Be as willing to take advice as to give it.
  • Be careful and systematic in your business arrangements.
  • Attention is the mother of memory.
  • A wise man knows everything. A shrewd one, knows everybody.
  • Action is the basis of success.
  • Every wise man started out by asking many questions
  • Always remember where you are going and never forget where you’ve been.

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Friends as an Asset Class – An Investor’s Take on Friendship

The purpose of this post is to highlight the huge impact social skills can have on wealth inequality by showing how much wealth is gained when you have the skills to make and maintain friends, and how much is lost when you don’t have social skills.

For this exercise, we forget the humanity of friendship and instead focus only on the financial aspects.  In that sense, friendship can be modeled as a subscription model business with an initiation fee.

Invest: Money, Time, Thought, Emotion, Options, and Opportunities

Return on Investment: access to resources, social and career network, all at extremely discounted prices.  Asking a friend for help is cheaper than paying a professional full price for help.  Meeting someone you have mutual friends with costs less resources than meeting a stranger.

Also, your wealth now increases indirectly through your friends: if each friend earns 10k per year and you have 10 friends, then your network is earning 100k per year.  If your friends gain skills, you indirectly gain them too: you now have easy access to expert skills at a discounted price.  You are encouraged to help each other because you all benefit together as friends.

This is in contrast to a life without friends, where everything is full price, and you have no incentive to help others because it won’t benefit you, it will just raise the competition and the prices on you, making your life more difficult.

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