Maybe the biggest problem really intelligent people have is that they spend more time being clever than being effective.
I used to suffer from this disease of the mind. I'd want to do something new, novel, and fascinating - instead of just getting something done.
The really effective people I know, the people who make the biggest difference in the world, who make the best things, who get the most done, who live the best lives - they all are more concerned with getting something done that fits than with making it clever.
Over-researching relatively minor things is a great example. Take a quick look, get an understanding, choose one. Change later if it becomes an issue.
Trying to reinvent the wheel constantly.
Using words people don't know - maybe makes you seem clever, but makes you much less clear and less effective.
Trying to show off instead of listening.
Trying to make a point in an obscure way for no good reason - instead of just saying it outright.
The absolute worst one? Arguing with people over stuff that doesn't matter - you win the point, but become radioactive to whoever you were arguing with. Proving someone wrong? Yeah, clever. Very ineffective, though.
Newcomer to an old post, but goddamn I had to laugh at myself when reading this...thanks for the food for thought - the difference between knowing something and doing it eh - some of my ideas I have spent years planning out, when really all I needed to do was sit down and start working
Huh, this is from six years ago — how'd you find it?
Definitely agreed about over-think. Did you ever take the Kolbe A Index? Can be useful to understand your default inclinations. Costs $50 but I think well-worth it in insight gained.
This page - from your start page. The title caught me - there have definitely been times where I thought I could outlearn the problem - getting ahead of it through understanding, where action would have been a more effective remedy. Obviously there is a hugely important place for learning, but everything on a balance, right ?
Your blog - kind of a roundabout journey - started reading JL Collin's stock series, which led me to Mr Money Mustache's blog, where he referenced a AJ Kessler post that was mocking him. I found that interesting, because tbh after reading through Kessler's stuff, it seems like him and MMM resonate on more than they disagree with, but maybe it was some of the extremity of the examples that turned him off...anyways, I digress. His blog led me to yours. I have read quite a few articles now, and I appreciate your perspective - there are lots of things I agree with, and similar conclusions to ones that I have drawn. It always fascinates/interests me how we can realize similar things from very different circumstances/lessons/paths. I picture my reading style as similar to clear-cutting forests - I like to be thorough haha....posts don't need to be new to be great! And I find it helps give a better picture when you go back and get a sense of the history and progression of someone's writing. So hope you don't mind to see my name popping up on some of your other older articles as I work my way though. Absorbing perspective is a great way to grow. And it's fun to have some back and forth on some of these topics.
Sorry for the long-winded response to a simple question - maybe gives you a bit of a better idea about me, though.
I will check out the Kolbe index - hadn't heard of it before, but I have done DiSC, Meyers Briggs & Strengthsfinder at various parts of my school and corporate life - high influencer per DiSC, and INFP at the time - that was like 15 years ago now though. Not quite the same, but after a quick bit of research seems to be in the same area. $50 is pretty low cost, if it produces even one or two usable insights about myself.
I came across your Unity #6 article on Medium when i was looking up the Kolbe index - that was a good read. The CIA observations were fascinating - I am interested to read through the other categories for people they use, do you recall if it was the Kubark Counterintelligence Interrogation document from July 1963? Or were you referencing something else? I was surprised at how their introduction to it resonated with me, that all systems of understanding and categorizing psychology are incomplete. That was always my main objection to things like DiSC (I was much younger when originally taking it, at the time I had more difficulty getting over the feeling that someone was trying to put me in a bucket, but still found some pretty practical insights there).
I have come across this in other areas, it definitely seems like a mental shorthand, to categorize - we tend to know our categories really well, and so seek to place the people we meet or things we encounter into those categories right away, to have the feeling that we then understand how they can work into our overall system of belief... but in doing so, we can often take ourselves out of touch with the actual reality of the situation - just like anything, the act of categorization is useful up to a point, but becomes detrimental once it starts leading to misplaced assumptions, and blocking us off from further learning. There have been some great Buddhist writings on the subject, as well as some of the more modern literature that's been coming out.
To tie it back to the CIA doc, and your conclusions, it really reminded me of Swinburne's leaky buckets - there's all these systems that give a good estimation but are imperfect models; there's flaws in each. But you can overlay enough of them to create a useful working model, on the assumption that each one in the network has the ability to cover off some of the blind spots of the others. It's pretty cool how that holds true for pretty much any kind of network, whether it's thought models or teams.
I was surprised at your findings about cardinal vs ordinal. I would have assumed that we have moved more towards the cardinal as a society / culture than I guess we have. But I guess I have been steeped in the thinking of 'the only person you have to beat is who you were yesterday,' or thinking along those lines, for a while now. Going back to Buddhism, and other religions/spiritualities as well, they tend to shift the end-point away from ego validation. Or there was a comic a few years back that summed it up well - two types of people in life - those that see someone doing something better than them and feeling threatened vs those who see it and want to learn the technique. It seems obvious that cardinal thinking is required for advancing the human paradigm. I wonder how much the dynamics between these two are affected by 'us vs them' thinking, and a problem with the framing of the issue; ordinal thinkers seem to tend to default to this more competitive mode of thinking, whereas cardinal thinkers have moved beyond it to identify with humanity as a whole. Also goes back to the whole understanding of mutually exclusive gains and 'fixed pie' vs 'grow the pie' thinking. I hadn't heard of it expressed as ordinal / cardinal before though, so that was cool to come across.
Just as a final reflection on that: it seems reasonable that the large emphasis on consumerism has been messaged and cultivated through our culture over the last generation leads more naturally to ordinal thinking, whereas perhaps more virtue-based cultural messaging would tend to lead more to cardinal thinking. I guess we are lucky to live in a time where philanthropy is becoming more fashionable among the rich - conspicuous consumption has become a little passe, now it seems to be less about all the things you have and more about what kind of impact you are making - so I view that as a pretty good sign. You could make the argument that it's always been that way, and that there has always been this kind of dynamic between cardinal and ordinal thinkers - I wonder if there is a tendency for ordinal thinkers to move towards involvement with institutions, due to the inherent politics and hierarchy involved, whereas cardinal thinkers may be more likely to go off the beaten path? That may be an overstretch of the model though... it just seems like we are slowly getting more cardinal thinkers into positions of power and influence, which comes across as a good thing.
Haha. Maybe I should have saved my apology for the length of my comment til the end!
On another note - seems like you are doing some pretty cool things these days - what kind of presence does Ultraworking have in Canada? I'm from Ontario. Cheers
Excellent observations — happy you found the site.
I was just in Toronto, but I'm only there every couple years or so.
We do run a variety of free and paid events online. Paid, the Pentathlon is the big one —
Free, we've got a lot of things like —
If you try either of those out, it'll put you on our email address when our next free event is announced too — probably a round of Work Cycles the last weekend of September.
I was looking at the Pentathlon, seems like a well-designed program - not hard to see how it could lead to some serious gains.
When it comes to the growth positions you guys are looking at filling, is it primarily getting more companies / groups engaged in the pentathlon, or are you looking at other types of outreach as well?
I will check out the other two links later tonight - work cycles form the basis of your increased productivity platform, then combined with ongoing feedback and things like that? Is there more to the platform that I am maybe not seeing? I've only had time to take a cursory look. Either way it looks pretty cool, and seems like it may be a good fit as corporate training for the company I work at - large Canadian construction firm. I'm also connected to a few charities and NFPs who are always tasked with doing more with less, so they may really benefit from the training too.
Is that the kind of vision you have when it comes to growth ?
> When it comes to the growth positions you guys are looking at filling, is it primarily getting more companies / groups engaged in the pentathlon, or are you looking at other types of outreach as well?
Both. We get more independent professionals than enterprise, but we've had companies buy from us and get excited for the gains they can get for their whole team.
> Either way it looks pretty cool, and seems like it may be a good fit as corporate training for the company I work at - large Canadian construction firm. I'm also connected to a few charities and NFPs who are always tasked with doing more with less, so they may really benefit from the training too.
Shoot me an email, I'm always happy to do things gratis for nonprofits (I was volunteer Exec Director of a nonprofit for five years), and potentially some business collaboration as well —firstname.lastname@example.org is my work email.
School plays a big part in this... it's entirely geared towards cleverness - get A's in Maths and English = success/approval, as opposed to get things done, shipped, put together, etc.
I could wax lyrical about business concepts, and love it. But there's someone out there saying "ok fine, now let's just do this" who is making 10x more money than me.
What's even more screwed up, is the kids who don't do well in school and drop out and take menial jobs and go through life thinking they are failures because they aren't clever. Beliefs like "I can't earn good money, I'm not clever enough and didn't go to university"... ugh! Toxic.
Omg! Where have you been all my life!!! :D I don't know how many times I use to tell myself, if there was only a "class/course" on this stuff I would definitely be taking it, as many as I could. I just had a scary thought, I wonder what I could've become and how my life would've/could've been different if the Internet HAD been available to me when I was young. I would be happier. I would've had access to alot of very valuable tools I need(ed) practically for free. Alot of wasted, unhappy years. Now the future is looking brighter, Wish me luck.
Great post that reminds me of a frequent warning I give people where I work, and that is "the perfect is the enemy of the good." I can't recall who coined that phrase, but the general idea is in line with your post. Too often I see problems persist for years because we can't get funding or time to implement the "prefect" solution.
The strategy I employ is to take the tiniest step towards improving the current situation, and try to measure the impact. Lather, rinse, repeat. After a while we've either made it "good enough" and we move on to something else, or we've gained enough converts to the cause that we can implement the perfect solution after all.
EXCELLENT points made in this post. I frequently find that my biggest road-block in being effective / getting things done is my tendency to over-think and prematurely criticise my ideas.
I'm starting to get better but it's still something I constantly need to watch out for.
Related to: Rationalists Should Win, Why Our Kind Can't Cooperate, Can Humanism Match Religion's Output?, Humans Are Not Automatically Strategic, Paul Graham's "Why Nerds Are Unpopular"
The "Prisoner's Dilemma" refers to a game theory problem developed in the 1950's. Two prisoners are taken and interrogated separately. If either of them confesses and betrays the other person - "defecting" - they'll receive a reduced sentence, and their partner will get a greater sentence. However, if both defect, then they'll both receive higher sentences than if neither of them confessed.
This brings the prisoner to a strange problem. The best solution individually is to defect. But if both take the individually best solution, then they'll be worst off overall. This has wide ranging implications for international relations, negotiation, politics, and many other fields.
Members of LessWrong are incredibly smart people who tend to like game theory, and debate and explore and try to understand problems like this. But, does knowing game theory actually make you more effective in real life?
I think the answer is yes, with a caveat - you need the basic social skills to implement your game theory solution. The worst-case scenario in an interrogation would be to "defect by accident" - meaning that you'd just blurt out something stupidly because you didn't think it through before speaking. This might result in you and your partner both receiving higher sentences... a very bad situation. Game theory doesn't take over until basic skill conditions are met, so that you could actually execute any plan you come up with.
There's so much buzz about social media that you're probably sick of hearing it.
But for all the buzz, I always have people asking me, "How can I use it to my benefit?"
To answer that question, I have to explain exactly what social media is (at least, to me), why it's so powerful, and what that means to you. So finally, here's my take on social media, and how you can leverage it in your business, right now.
A definition of social media:
First and most importantly: Social media is not advertising. In fact, people often think of social media like an ad in a telephone book. But that's wrong. You don't place ads in social media. Instead, social media is a tool, like the telephone. In fact, the telephone was an early example of social media. But with social media, it's like you have a telephone that's connected to thousands of phone receivers, instead of just one. And not only that, but social media is asynchronous, meaning you don't have to be talking to those thousands of people at the same time - they can listen to you when they want to. And whenever you remove time from the equation, your message becomes infinitely more powerful, because it lasts forever instead of happening at one point on a timeline (see my related talk at a Georgetown MBA class on the importance of capturing content).
There's so much buzz about social media that you're probably sick of hearing it. But for all the buzz, I always have people asking me, "How can I use it to my benefit?" To answer that question, I have to explain exactly what social media is (at least, to me), why it's so powerful, and what that means to you. So finally, here's my take on social media, and how you can leverage it in your business, right now. A definition of social media: First and most importantly: Social media is not advertising. In fact, people often think of social media like an ad in a telephone book. But that's wrong. You don't place ads in social media. Instead, social media is a tool, like the telephone. In fact, the telephone was an early example of social media. But with social media, it's like you have a telephone that's connected to thousands of phone receivers, instead of just one. And not only that, but social media is asynchronous, meaning you don't have to be talking to those thousands of people at the same time - they can listen to you when they want to. And whenever you remove time from the equation, your message becomes infinitely more powerful, because it lasts forever instead of happening at one point on a timeline (see my related talk at a Georgetown MBA class on the importance of capturing content). So, my definition of social media is this: A way to transfer knowledge and expertise out of your head, and into the hands of the people that want it when they're making a decision that could be affected by what you know. You must remember that social media is a tool, not an ad. And it requires an investment of your time to be leveraged effectively. In fact, that's the biggest barrier that keeps most people from really using it to their benefit: You have to learn new skills, and you have to dedicate time to utilizing those skills. You can't just buy an ad and be done with it. These barriers are enough to keep most people from using social media effectively. The benefits, however, are enormous. The funny thing about social media is that anyone can do it, because everyone has expertise in something. And at its core, that's all social media is: sharing your expertise with the world in a structured way. The good news is that you can pick & choose certain ways to get involved in social media that are easier and require less of a commitment to get started, and graduate from there as you see results. Here's a list of some options, from easiest to hardest: Start a blog: Back in 2007 I wrote about why Henry Ford would love blogs. I recommend you read that article to understand the benefits of blogging. Your goal should be to become a subject matter expert in the eyes of Google, so when people search for keywords, your name comes up. The narrower your topic, the easier that will be. Difficulty rating: Easy. 2 on a scale of 10 (10 is hardest) Time commitment: Medium. 2 hours per week, minimum. You must build up 100+ blogs before you'll be picked up by Google for your blogging. Tools: Blogger, Typepad, Wordpress Make Videos: The power of videos is often underrated. Here's an example: I made a YouTube real estate video titled "Making successful lowball offers". It's been viewed over 10,000 times (remember what I wrote above about social media being asynchronous and letting people consume your content on their time? 9,000 views is a perfect example.) That video has paid handsome dividends over the years, as clients have contacted me asking me to represent them. Consider, for a moment, the significance of this: Just from making one YouTube video, which took me about an hour to produce, prospective real estate clients contacted me vs. me making cold calls trying to find clients. I call it the "celebrity effect" - just like we all feel that we know Angelina Jolie because we've seen her in the movies, clients felt like they knew me from watching my videos, and more importantly, they knew what knowledge I had that they thought could benefit them. Want some tangible proof? I made this video in 2006, four years ago. And yet, here's an email I received just today from someone who just watched the video: and letting people consume your content on their time? 9,000 views is a perfect example.) That video has paid handsome dividends over the years, as clients have contacted me asking me to represent them. Consider, for a moment, the significance of this: Just from making one YouTube video, which took me about an hour to produce, prospective real estate clients contacted me vs. me making cold calls trying to find clients. I call it the "celebrity effect" - just like we all feel that we know Angelina Jolie because we've seen her in the movies, clients felt like they knew me from watching my videos, and more importantly, they knew what knowledge I had that they thought could benefit them. Want some tangible proof? I made this video in 2006, four years ago. And yet, here's an email I received just today from someone who just watched the video: And he's in Seattle! He's contacting me from Seattle! There must be at least 25,000 real estate agents in Washington state, and yet he's reaching out to me, on the opposite coast of the USA, because the video was so powerful to him. And to reinforce my telephone analogy, it's like I've been on the telephone for over four years, with over 9,000 people, with just this one video alone. Now that's the power of social media. My friend Frank LLosa, also a real estate broker, has done amazing, cutting edge things with videos, as evidenced by his "wheel estate cam". Difficulty rating: Medium. 3 on a scale of 10 (get past your fear of appearing on camera, of thinking you have to make it 'perfect', and of uploading videos to YouTube) Time commitment: Low. 15 minutes+ per video; make as many as you'd like. Tools: social media bag, Kodak Zi8, YouTube, Vimeo Tweet: I have a love/hate relationship with Twitter. I recently nuked my following list because there was too much noise for me to use it effectively. However, it can be a very powerful way to contact people that would otherwise be inaccessible to you. One tip for Twitter newbies - use it to search for content, instead of feeling like you have to use it to create content. For example, do you love Costa Rica? You can see what people are saying about it, right now. Maybe you need a job in Washington DC? You can search for that, too. Difficulty rating: Low. 1 on a scale of 10 Time commitment: High. Getting into the habit of using Twitter can be difficult. Tools: Twitter, CoTweet for business users, TweetDeck and HootSuite for power and mobile users Facebook I'm not much of a Facebook user personally, but many people are. I like to run Facebook through TweetDeck and just keep that open all day. It's a way to get updates on what's happening on Facebook without having to go to the site. Facebook Groups and Fan Pages are a good way to spread the word of whatever your business or cause is, and get people to sign up as fans. I recently did this for AppMakr and with 1410Q, so we'll see how well it works for us. I also run all my tweets through Facebook, so instead of creating content in Facebook directly, when I post a tweet on Twitter, it shows up on Facebook. If you have good tips on how to leverage Facebook, please leave them in the comments below, as I don't have any big ones here. Difficulty rating: Low. 2 on a scale of 10 Time commitment: Varies. You'll get out of it what you put into it. Tools: Facebook LinkedIn I'm not a big LinkedIn fan, mostly because of its limited utility to actually contact people from the tool. It's like a tease to me - you can find many people on LinkedIn, but you can't actually contact them. I much prefer Jigsaw, which I recommend for all salespeople as a powerful secret weapon to be able to contact anyone. Difficulty rating: Low. 2 on a scale of 10 Time commitment: Varies. You'll get out of it what you put into it. Tools: LinkedIn Mobile: Mobile is an emerging part of social media. Many of you know that I co-founded PointAbout, a company that makes high-end custom iPhone and Android applications for brands like The Washington Post, Gannett, Kaplan, Burger King, and Cars.com. We've also launched a service called AppMakr, which lets anyone make their own iPhone app. Most people just refer to mobile in the singular sense, but mobile is actually comprised of three main areas, which we call the "mobile pyramid". Here's a chart we made to describe all three: If you want to get into mobile, you'll have to have a strategy for all three areas. For now, really digging into mobile is an advanced area of social media, although tools like AppMakr are making it much easier. But you'll probably want to save this one for last, as the mobile distribution channel still has a smaller footprint than the web (at least in the US). If you're progressive, though, mobile is a very hot and fast-growing area you should focus on. Difficulty rating: High. 10 on a scale of 10 (or 4 on a scale of 10 with a tool like AppMakr) Time commitment: High up-front, then low ongoing Tools: AppMakr, PointAbout I'm sure many of you will have comments on other tools or approaches to social media, and I'd love to hear them. Please leave your comments below.