Being Curious, Building Character and Making Better Choices
Why did it take us so long to start putting wheels on suitcases? Good questions trump smart answers and a questioning mentality is far more effective than a knowing mentality. Once we have declared an answer, our biases towards commitment and consistency cause us to defend our answer, wasting energy that would be better applied to exploring alternatives. Good if questions stimulate rich debate. What would you do if you were not afraid?
When we are captain of our own ship, life can be a wonderful continuous voyage of discovery. Over time our competence continuum moves from ignorance to conversational competence, to operational competence, then towards proficiency, and finally all the way to mastery. Too often we settle for operational competence. We can choose to be life-long learners rather than flat-line learners. Farnam Street Post: Lifelong Learning
When it comes to describing much of what currently passes for personal communication, the analogy of the crocodile is an apt one: all mouth and no ears…
In conversations we have a choice; we can lecture or we can learn. Approaching conversations through a learning lens should be our default setting. I have a view, but, what might I be missing here? What if the other person has some insight that can illuminate my own? What if I am wrong? To truly listen to others is a gift to them. As Seneca said: One of the most beautiful qualities of true friendship is to understand and to be understood.
Farman Street Post: Listening & the Learning Lens
Incentives matter a lot. They are what drive human behaviour, and we underestimate their influence at our peril. We can only see a situation with true clarity when we take the time to carefully consider the interests at hand. And we understand it even better when we consider how the situation might be different if the underlying interests were different.
“The Pointed Carrot”
Incentives are not just effective, sometimes they are too effective. The carrot is effective but it is too pointed and we get perverse incentives. People will navigate the shortest path to the incentive. The curious among us will pay particular attention to incentives, monetary or otherwise.
Farnam Street Post: The Distorting Power of Incentives
Consider the Context
“There is no such thing as the view from nowhere, or from everywhere for that matter. Our point of view biases our observation, consciously and unconsciously. You cannot understand the view without the point of view”. Noam Shpancer
Life is context-dependent. We can place our views along a confidence continuum which proceeds as follows:
Fickle -> Tentative -> Contextually Confident -> Certain -> Dogmatic
For most things “contextually confident” seems like where we should be. Nothing occurs in isolation. Always consider the context and recognise that it changes over time and is different for everyone.
Consider the End and the Opposite
Two useful questions before setting out on a journey are where do I want to get to and what would disrupt the journey.
In life we may ask how we would like to be remembered and reflect that we certainly wouldn’t like an empty eulogy.
Visualise both the road to personal fulfilment and the destination. Consider what behaviour would thwart that fulfilment and do the opposite. Thinking about the road to avoid helps reveal the more rewarding road.
Some traits to strive for include:
acceptance, awareness, character, compassion, equanimity, honesty, interdependence, patience, perspective, resilience; and sociability.
A combination of rational, conscious and respectful thinking is at the core of demonstrating emotional intelligence. It is who and how we are that matters more than what we have and know.
“Gratitude looks to the past and love to the present: fear, avarice, lust and ambition look ahead.” C.S. Lewis
Fear is mostly a thought-based construct. It dissolves when we drop our comparisons and accept ourselves fully as we are. We have a choice right now. Do we choose fear or do we choose regret?
Why not cast away the anchor of fear, leave the harbour of regret and let the winds of curiosity take us forth…
Know Yourself, Be Yourself, Mind Yourself
Knowing ourselves is one of life’s great challenges. Knowing ourselves gives us the courage to be ourselves.
Some things can’t be delegated. Minding yourself is one such thing. Know yourself and see the journey. Be yourself and enjoy the journey. Mind yourself and extend the journey.
Be Kind to Your Parents
“Be Kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.” Plato
Why do we sometimes feel a lesser sense of reciprocity towards those who do the most for us?
Kindness is not just for strangers.
Sales Negotiation Influence
We all have natural abilities when it comes to selling, negotiating and influencing. These can be enhanced by understanding the science involved. For example, here are some traits of successful negotiators:
… seek bigger pies, not bigger slices
… take their time
… focus on understanding the underlying interests of all parties
… understand perception
… maximise, but never overuse, their perceived power
… rarely accept the first offer
… recognise that virtually everything is negotiable
… delve into differences as a treasure trove of differing perceptions of value
… incrementally and continually build on common ground
Adversity is both inevitable and relative. Everyone meets with adversity, but not in equal measure. We get to choose the narrative of our response.
A victim narrative can take us under, but a survivor narrative helps us cope. Some go beyond a survivor narrative and take on a growth narrative, interpreting an adversarial event as an opportunity to demonstrate resilience and tenacity.
Be a True Friend
“Oh, the comfort, the inexpressible comfort, of feeling safe with a person, having neither to weigh thought nor measure words, but to pour them all right out, just as they are, chaff and grain together, knowing that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then, with a breath of kindness, blow the rest away.” George Eliot
True friends are WARM
Complexity is failed simplicity…
Choosing a Career
We should strive to find a career that offers:
- Work we enjoy
- A share in the value we create
- The opportunity to work with people we like, trust and respect.
The Ubiquity of Energy
If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration.” Nikola Tesla
It’s all about energy – everything. Move beyond being simply being re-active. Be pro-active, or better still be enthusiastic…
Facts fill the mind, experiences open it. When you get the opportunity to experience something different, take it. Differentiate yourself through your diversity of experiences.
Where to Live
Where we live too often comes down to chance, as a by-product of other decisions or as a compromise. Recognising that where we live is an important life choice should cause us to give the decision more thought.
The One for Me
- Take your time. Whom to marry is probably one of the most important decisions we make in our lifetime.
- Don’t settle on second best.
- Look for long-term friendship that is grounded in mutual respect and enjoyment of each other’s company.
- Deserve a good partner.
Having and raising children is not a fair-weather pursuit, yet those who have them wouldn’t have it any other way. Our ability to fully control whether we have children is open to debate, but the choice to love them, no strings attached, is ours alone.
- Earn more. Spend less.
- Set up a regular savings plan and make a public commitment to maintain it.
- Make savings automatic.
- Invest rationally through a passive, DIY, or trusted manager route.
- Avoid large mistakes.
- Do your homework and be careful of leverage.
- Minimise expenses.
- Maximise tax efficiency.
- Think about the compound gratification of knowing that you have chosen the smart route – enriching the choices you will have later in life.
- Choose larger later over smaller sooner.
A child of five would understand this.
Send someone to fetch a child of five.
– Groucho Marx
Our brains are powerful but far from perfect. While our gut, intuition and subconscious serve us well, for important decisions we need to think twice. Understanding how our brains operate improves our ability to use them.
To Contemplation’s sober eye
Such is the race of man:
And they that creep, and they that fly,
Shall end where they began.