Question for the readers of this site –
Do you ever read something abstract about business, history, statistics, science, or whatever… and get the feeling “Damn, I’m missing something here. There’s something important here, but I don’t know what.”
I think we all get it occasionally, no? Sometimes for me it’s near unbearable, if I know there’s something important there that I was missing. Sometimes I’m able to resolve it reasonably quickly, sometimes it takes a while longer — once, I finally worked out some equations I’d been failing to finish seven years after I first started — but I fear that often I never get the missed point… which might be important.
What do you do in these situations?
I search briefly, then let it go. Life is short and in the time it would take to learn what I am lacking so that I can understand, I could have learned ten other things. Or I might discover that I didn't get it because the abstraction was flawed to begin with. My opinion - the key insight is that if you don't get it, your value judgement that it's "important" is by definition a delusion. Maybe it is, maybe not. And by the time you figure it out your time is gone forever. It's poor thinking to make a big spend on a maybe.
In introductory statistics, when the variance of sample means often conveniently ends up as sigma^2/n. You can see the principle OK for normal random variables. But for other types of variable it's not so straightforward. It needs some central limit theorem. These don't tend to get explained, or the gloss-over adequately noted, in introductory courses. So, if you wonder, 'how did they get that?' it can be a head scratcher until you track back to where the missing step was: the central limit theorem that was invoked was never explained, just used.
I try to hang on to the feeling as a positive thing, like a smoke detector, until I find what the source of the problem is. I find common candidates are:
1) I'm missing a prerequisite. Trace back and find out what it is.
2) I'm fouling some important step. Write it out and see where my thinking is sloppy. If technical, try and replicate the equations/whatever on a computer.
3) The source I'm learning from is unclear for me. Find something equivalent and use that.
4) The idea itself is bullshit. Low prior probability here, but it happens. E.g. I've seen models in economics that could imply people working more than 24hrs per day. Can be difficult to decide what to do here, depending on what situation you're in (e.g. exam).
I feel this most acutely when playing the game of Go because my strategic failures are not due to merely lacking insight into the game. They are due to failing to grasp the principles that govern strategy and logic themselves.
Otherwise, as someone more divergent than sequential in thinking, I sometimes know I am not observing an interesting detail that could lead me to a solution, but generally my problem is more being able to act on what I realize than churning through the details trying to realize the abstract.Update: I'd love an explanation of the -2...
Derek Sivers is holding a one-time class to teach you the "magic touch" in business, with examples, war stories, and lessons you can apply right now to do better by your customers and profit as a result of it -- and all the proceeds will go to charity.
The class will be on February 19th at 5PM California time (8PM East Coast). You can find out more at GiveGetWin by clicking here.
The Mentality Behind the Magic Touch; Derek Sivers interviewed by Chiara Cokieng
Derek Sivers sold CDBaby for $22 million dollars in 2008. In this interview, he explains what he's been doing now, how he's engaged with his new projects, and -- most excitingly for business owners and entrepreneurs -- the mentality behind the "magic touch" he had that made CDBaby so loved by its customers, and a huge part of how it grew so quickly. Here's Derek --
In 2008, when I sold CDBaby, I was about to start a new company immediately. Literally the day after I sold CDBaby, I was ready to start my next company. I incorporated it, I started programming, got a few months into building it, and then realized that if I were to do that, I wouldn’t be making any real change in my life.
I’ve choked many times. But compared to others, I’m really not that much of a choker. Honestly, we make a big deal out of choking, and the reality is that almost everyone cracks under-pressure. Clutch is what’s rare, that’s what makes 4th quarter Tim Tebow so exciting.
I want to be clutch. So I read this book.
Basically, the book outlines five traits of clutch.
These 5 traits are what makes people clutch -and they make sense, but there has to be something more, what about Tim Tebow?
Part me wants to believe that God is doing this out of amusement, to use Tebow to promote himself. But I think I can make a better guess.