When it comes down to analyzing something or making a decision, the reality is there has to be one thing that you’re optimizing for more than everything else.
If you were buying a business, you can really only ever optimize for 3 things primarily: 1) Effort, 2) Money, and 3) Risk. If you were buying a car, you may only optimize for things like: 1) Cost, 2) Performance, 3) Ego / Status, and 4) Looks. A car with low maintenance would lower your cost. And a car with a Lexus emblem might help with your Ego. And so on.
There’s extra bonuses that arrive for a product when it introduces a new layer of optimization. For example if you care about saving the environment, you may be interested in that and buy a ugly, expensive, low status car like a Prius so you can save the environment. Smart phones did the same thing when people no longer searched for the typical aspects of a phone like cord range and instead, “speed” for ability to play games.
Adding a layer for a customer to optimize for is what creates disrupting businesses. – Truth Cake
In order to make better decisions, you need to list out all the primary characteristics that are common in all the choices. Once you have those laid out, things become easier. Once you determine which of those aspects holds the most importance to you, making a decision becomes even easier.
That’s why when ‘save the environment’ is the most important thing to someone, and there’s a car that does that very well, it has an immediate pile of customers that want that car because they know that’s the most important thing b/c no other car even has that attribute.
Know the attributes of what you’re trying to decide between. It’s often fewer than you think.
Know which attribute is the most important.
Optimize for that most important aspect.
What hard decision have you had to make between 2 similar seeming things that became obvious on the best choice when you knew yourself well enough to know precisely what you cared about most?
“Don’t make decisions too hasty – major decisions should take time.” – Typical guru
The reason why “big” decisions are so tough is because all the options have similar outcomes overall. It’s usually the smaller decisions that pile up that start to matter the most for people as opposed to one single decision.
Tough decisions usually don’t matter. – Truth Cake
A decision can be a major decision, but they’re often a lot easier to spot what the correct answer is. If it’s a decision on to divorce an abusive spouse, that’s a pretty ‘easy’ decision despite it being a major one. Trying to decide whether to take a job at one company offering $100k vs another offering a similar amount is hard, because both outcomes are likely to be good and/or similar. Maybe it’s better to flip a coin and just move forward and worry about the piles of micro decisions that go along with it. It’s usually not one big decision that affects your life anyway, it’s the thousands of small decisions you end up making that gets you in that situation where it feels like the next one is a big decision.
Decisions that feel the hardest usually mean the probabilities and expectancy is likely to be similar with each option.
Worry about your unending micro decisions that gets you in to these situations. Many of your best and most important decisions you’ve made in life are easy because there was only one option that was massively better than the others. That decision was the most important, and the biggest decision most likely, but it didn’t feel like it because it was so easy.
It may be a hard decision on whether to get the chicken or the steak at a restaurant when you love both options, but it’s only hard because both outcomes are similar and the decision doesn’t really matter. Flip a coin and move on. Think about your micro decisions more often, and you’ll get into situations where larger “tough” decisions don’t matter because they’re often equally as good.
What decision have you been stressing about that when you take a step back that either: a) one option is clearly the best and you should take it or b) no option is better than the other from what you can tell, and in that case, why bother stressing or wasting time on it? Just pick one and move forward.
“Passive income is what you need because it’s easy!” – Random guru.
It’s probably harder to get passive income for many people than to just simply work.
Finding sunken treasure may be harder than just to simply work.
Getting a business to run passively while you drink margaritas is MASSIVELY more difficult than to just work in the business.
Trying to find the workout that produces results in only 1 hour a week is going to take more time and research than just going to the gym for 5 hours a week.
Stop trying to ‘hack’ things to “make it easier” when in reality, it’s HARDER to half-ass things. – Truth Cake
It’s the old programmer joke where they spend 20 hours coding something that automates a task but the result of that automation only saves 5 hours.
What thing have you tried to save time or effort on and you spent more effort or time in the attempt to do so?
“Work smart, not hard!” – Random guru.
Succeeding in many things isn’t an absolute thing – it’s a relative thing.
Meaning that if “success” is standing up in an auditorium for a better view, and everyone else stands up, you’re back to square one. Therefore, it’s not about working smart if everyone else is working hard AND working smart – now it just means you’ve got to try even harder.
Working smart is worthless if your competitors are working smart AND working hard. – Truth Cake
Secondly, working smart is usually some seductive disguise for trying to not work as hard, which sounds great. “Succeed and be lazy!” is what people actually hear, which is exactly what most all people want to hear is possible. They would feel too stupid to agree with some charlatan that says you can be lazy and get richer, but when it’s dressed up with the “hard vs smart” cliché, it sounds reasonable to believe but also feels great.
Beware of clichés that feel good to believe. They’re probably wrong, and often said by someone wanting to sell you something.
The reality is that working smart does of course exist, since the work from doing the right things is more valuable than the work from doing the wrong things. However, it may be that in general, the ‘secret’ to accomplishing something may be harder to find than you think.
For example, how many workout plans have you read online or seen in a course that advocate 7 day a week workouts, extremely strict dieting, grueling 4 hour training sessions and how to inject your steroids? My guess is you’ve seen zero. But this is exactly what it takes to become Mr Olympia.
This is the hard work no one wants to do, and thinks that a course showing some magic diet and 20 minute workout will get them the results they want.
The reality is now the reality of the ‘hard work’ is becoming the secret that you can’t find anywhere for sale, because no one wants to invest the time and effort to get the results. Marketers can’t sell this beacuse why would you buy “70 minute abs” when you can buy “7 minute abs?”
Sometimes you can tell what the real solution is inside of the marketing headline where the template is “Get X result without Y hassle.” So something like, “Get the body of your dreams, without having to give up all the foods you love,” is a great headline to sell something. But it also gives you a hint on what you actually need to do, which is “give up all the foods you love.”
Since it’s rare to find a course on the grueling truth on how much work you need to do, the “obvious” truth becomes a secret, but you can sometimes look at the headlines to get a hint if you have no clue.
Stop looking for ways to take shortcuts and work smart, and instead try to focus on the working hard aspect of it and you’ll likely achieve your outcome much faster than from wading through all the crap from marketers telling you there’s an “easier way!”
What things have you spent more time trying to avoid the work vs how much time it would have taken you if you just did the work?
“Stop with your excuses!” – Random Guru
I think gurus are close to having the right idea here. Many excuses are just that – excuses. Parents that blame their kids for the parent being messy, or fat, or unmotivated, will eventually have the kid no longer in the picture but the parents behavior continues on unchanged, despite the excuse no longer being valid.
The problem is sometimes excuses are valid, even though they’re mostly not.
People that have excuses about why they can’t follow their diet because “they’re so busy with work,” but then get fired, and their diet still doesn’t change.
John Romero, the creator of Wolfenstein and Doom, had an excuse that the team wasn’t being so productive because they were in Wisconsin and it was cold and miserable – so they all moved to Dallas. They moved to Dallas but their productivity problems followed them there eventually as well.
When you take responsibility for everything you do and feel, there’s no real excuses. But you can’t take responsibility for things outside of your control and that’s a valid excuse.
It’s possible for someone overweight to eat better – whatever excuse they have is not valid, unless it’s outside of their control (ie. they’re incarcerated and have no choice on what to eat because it’s in the control of others).
The tricky part here is whatever the excuse is regarding, is VERY likely to be completely fictitious. Meaning that the reason you can’t start that business you always wanted to because “you work so late at the office,” is totally false. Because if you got fired and didn’t work at all, you STILL wouldn’t start that business. The excuse would just change, “It’s not the right time,” or, “I’ve got bills to pay – I need to find another job!”
There’s only about 2 main things that are out of your control: the weather / environment and other people.
This is why Tony Robbins mentions that “proximity is power,” and being around other people can have real effects on you. You’ll never be a movie star if you just hang out by yourself in the Sahara Desert. In this same example, you CAN move to Los Angeles to get your acting career launched, but if you have an excuse as to why you can’t move there, it’s probably just that – an excuse.
In the end, the reality is that it’s very difficult to know if something is a valid excuse or not, but more often than not in many situations, the excuse isn’t valid at all.
While the excuse may be valid, the better path is to just treat the excuse as if it’s not valid and press onward. – Truth Cake
One way to see how invalid an excuse is though is via a) Honesty, and b) Knowing what you really love.
Getting in the habit of talking honestly with yourself is more powerful than excuses. “I don’t have a 6 pack because…I love doughnuts more than having abs.” Or, “I don’t have a clean house because…I like watching TV more than having a clean house.”
Behind every excuse is a love for something else more than the goal. – Truth Cake
When you realize excuses are hiding what you really love and want, you can decide CONSCIOUSLY to overcome it or not and stop pretending that an excuse is the problem when it’s not.
You can also tell whether it’s a valid excuse or not. An inmate that loves steak that says, “The reason I can’t eat steak is because I’m incarcerated and not given a choice.” That’s clearly a valid excuse – there’s nothing he loves more, and it’s in the control of other people.
However, the person that says, “The reason I can’t finish reading that book is because my kids distract me,” is much more likely saying that they love giving their kids attention more than reading a book.
What’s an excuse you told yourself about something and when that excuse no longer existed, you just found another excuse to not move towards a goal? How are your excuses showing you what you truly love?
The gurus will tell you that failure is a part of growing, and it’s actually right but that’s only half the story. Because when losers fail, they don’t think about why they failed. When winners fail, they think about what they learned to not fail in the same way again.
Sometimes it takes creativity to realize what you could have done better after you mess up. When you do it again, perhaps you can be: faster, make it take less effort, make it less irritating / painful to do, make it less expensive of a failure, use a different technique or strategy? Even though finding the path to winning might not be evident, if you’re improving, you’re on the path to winning. If you fail and don’t realize what you could have done to make things better if you try again, then you either need to:
1) Abandon the objective (ie. playing the lotto is probably not a good thing since you’re not learning anything when you lose),
2) Consider if you’re already doing things perfectly and you’re just playing the odds (ie. playing the lotto, losing, not learning, but know that if you buy 250 million tickets when the jackpot is 5 billion is a still a good idea),
3) Realize you actually DID learn something, but you need to be more creative in identifying how to be better. Most of the time, this is the right answer.
What’s something you did that felt like a failure, but when you really sit and think about it, you actually learned how to be better in some way for it?
“Your diet is terrible and you need to follow my workout advice” – Fat Random Guru.
I mention before in other articles about the tenants of advice and why advice is often so bad for many people and doesn’t work. I also mention that taking advice from people not ahead of you in terms of where you are in your goal should be looked at very critically.
If someone else hasn’t achieved what you want, you have to be wary of their advice on that topic. – Truth Cake
Everyone in the gym used to give me advice when I was there, most of the advice was all conflicting, and things got a lot easier when I only listened to advice coming from those that looked like what I wanted to look like.
But why do top performers still have coaches?
In advanced situations, the objective is where things get tricky. Andre Agassi has a tennis coach but that coach can’t beat him in a match. Agassi takes advice from him because the coach knows the strategies and plans of a good match, and that coach does that specific objective better than Agassi. Then Agassi can take that advice on that specific objective and execute it better.
The 2nd part of identifying someone to take advice from is considering their incentives.
A fitness guru online that looks great and clearly ahead of you in your goal may be terrible to get advice from if their incentive is to sell you diet pills and they’re just a marketing shill. A realtor has the incentive to sell you a house, preferably the most expensive, NOT find you the perfect house. A therapist has the incentive to keep you coming back endlessly, NOT fix you once and for all.
Side note: Unfortunately, the incentivization in many professions is NOT aligned with your goals, not because those professions are unscrupulous but due to the broken aspects of human psychology. An example of broken psychology is a therapist that truly fixes you in 5 minutes with a magic spell and wants $60,000 is considered to be a rip off, vs another therapist that costs $1k a month for 5 years to fix you.
Because of this, you have to always look for:
a) Are they ahead of you,
b) Is my objective specific enough that they have value, like in the case of Agassi and the coach, and
c) Are their incentives aligned with yours.
When’s the last time you took advice from someone that had the answers but you ended up worse off after taking that advice because their goals weren’t the same as yours?
What is this site?
Self improvement for smart people.
I follow business leaders, gurus, and philosophers and note things others missed that I’ve found valuable.
This site is my precious treasure chest of ideas on business, philosophy and life. And hopefully during your pillaging here, you get your mind blown.
My life’s goals are to help summarize the human knowledge base, dispel self improvement myths, and achieve a resultant and unrelenting state of 24/7 euphoria. I’m kidding, but we’ll still try!
Follow along on my journey!