3 New Ideas 💡

Stewards of Information 🧑‍✈️
For most of us, there are very few domains where we would call ourselves ‘experts’ and similarly few where we would feel qualified to teach others.

Reading books or researching on the internet doesn’t feel legitimate enough to give us a position of authority to advise on many of the things we are passionately curious about, but not technically trained in.

Whether that be science, philosophy or anything else, we shy away from opportunities to share knowledge or provide guidance, and are quick to feel like imposters as we repeat the ideas of others who feel leagues smarter and more accomplished than ourselves. We don’t see ourselves as the experts who should be doing the teaching and so we don’t teach.

But what if we adjusted the imaginary bar we tell ourselves we have to clear before passing knowledge or advice onto others?

In this episode of Not Overthinking, Taimur provides a useful mindset shift to apply in positions where we feel unqualified to be guiding others: think of yourself as a steward of information rather than as an expert.

For most things, being a teacher doesn’t necessitate us committing our lives to understanding all the intricacies of a subject. All it requires is that the information (and reference material) that others are looking for is fresh in our minds.

The role of a steward is to cater and guide, and by approaching teaching with that goal in mind, we can enable ourselves to more readily share and help others.

The Theory of Modes 🧠
Aaron Beck - a professor of psychiatry credited as the father of cognitive behavioural therapy - described in a 1996 paper the Theory of Modes. As the paper’s abstract reads, a mode is “a network of cognitive, affective, motivational, and behavioral components.”

Beck’s theory said that the various aspects of our individual personalities are constantly reorganised into different ‘modes’ that allow us to deal with different situations and problems, each one representing an almost alter-ego that we switch between in our daily lives.

Personal authenticity is a problem that I think about a lot. Being “true to ourselves” regardless of the situations we are in seems to be held as a universal virtue and yet, I’ve always felt that it’s only natural to act differently around different people. As David Hume put it, our mind can seem like a “theatre” of constantly changing perceptions and states, and it’s often hard to pin down a single identity that represents the ‘self’ we are told to be true to.

Around friends, I might try and be more funny and impulsive, around family members more reserved, around older friends more thoughtful and around a girlfriend more compassionate. These qualities all contribute to what I see as my own persistent identity, and yet, I think of them less as fixed pieces and more as dials on a sound board to be tuned and adjusted based on the situation I’m in.

So far, that’s how I’ve come to reconcile with this issue and the Theory of Modes seems to lend some support to that.

David Goggins’ Cookie Jar 🍪
David Goggins is a former Navy SEAL, high-performing endurance athlete and motivational speaker who’s done everything from tours in Iraq and three SEAL hell weeks to claiming the 24-hour pull-up record and completing a 100 mile race.

All of the things that Goggins has accomplished speak to the mental fortitude and endurance that he's built up over the course of his life which he talks about in his 2018 memoir Can’t Hurt Me.

In the book, one of the things that Goggins talks about is his cookie jar. Unlike the cookie jars on our kitchen counters (full of tempting sugary snacks), Goggins’ cookie jar is a mental bank of memories that he draws upon when he feels like caving in.

It contains all the incredible feats he's accomplished, all the pain he’s survived and all the times he’s felt like giving up but pushed through. These cookies are memories of failure and success that he only allows himself to relish in as a reminder of the fact that he is - as he believes - the toughest man alive.

Instead of dwelling on past accomplishments, Goggins looks forward towards the next thing, and only allows himself to dip into his cookie jar as a reserve of energy to push through those extra miles or hold out for those extra hours.

In the same way, we can all strive to have our accomplishments be things that give us strength when we need them. Whenever our energy-conserving brains tell us that we can’t or shouldn’t try any longer, we can dip into our own cookie jars to remember that whatever hard thing we are facing is just another one of the many we have overcome before.


3 Favourite Saves 💾

The Trouble with Optionality is a Harvard Business Review article in which the author describes a common trap that he sees many young, high-achieving university graduates fall into: an unexamined pursuit of optionality. Optionality, as he puts it, is the “state of enjoying possibilities without being on the hook to do anything” which often manifests itself in ‘safe’ choices and career paths. The problem with following these paths, as the author describes, is that we forget that these ‘safe’ choices shape who we come out on the other side as. Often times the ‘options’ that we are supposedly being afforded fade into the background as we settle into a comfortable reality and forget the dreams that we came in hoping to enable.

You Are Not Late is an older (2014) article from Kevin Kelly who tells us that just like how people Today bemoan how easy it was to launch a successful business, internet startup or social media following just a few decades back (when things were a “wide-open frontier”), people looking back in 30 years will describe Today’s time in the same way. We might believe that it’s too late to make anything of value in this world and that there is a fixed-pie of ‘success’ that has already been feasted on, but that isn't the case. In a positive-sum world of continuous spillover, the pie keeps expanding and, as Kelly reminds us, “there has never been a better time with more opportunities, more openings, lower barriers, higher benefit/risk ratios, better returns, greater upside, than now. Right now, this minute.” Start now.

McDonald’s Broke My Heart is an episode of Malcom Gladwell’s podcast Revisionist History. In it, he talks about how the once great McDonald’s French Fry that he grew up loving was corrupted by a well-intentioned man, Phil Sokolof, who directed his personal fortune towards fighting the health crisis in America. As he relives his childhood through a beef-tallow-fried recreation at a food lab in California, Gladwell recounts the rise of the McDonald’s French Fry’s with Ray Kroc and its demise at the hands of Sokolof. A lighthearted (maybe not to Gladwell) story to brighten up your week.


3 Quotes to Think About 📝

“If code scripts machines, media scripts human beings.”— Balaji Srinivasan, The Tim Ferris Show

“Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself, (I am large, I contain multitudes.)” — Walt Whitman, Song of Myself, 51

“All courses of action are risky, so prudence is not in avoiding danger (it’s impossible), but calculating risk and acting decisively. Make mistakes of ambition and not mistakes of sloth.” — Niccolo Machiavelli


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