New Old Ideas 💡
I am currently locked out of my second brain in Roam at the moment and so the ideas from this week’s newsletter are being resurfaced and revisited from a previous edition.
Positive-sum games ♟
In game theory, a zero-sum game refers to any situation where one’s gain is offset by another’s loss - when the total losses and gains are added up they equal zero (hence zero-sum). In sports, we have losers and winners. In the stock market, we can only over-perform when others under-perform. In gambling, our winnings are somebody else’s losses.
A positive-sum game on the other hand represents a win-win situation instead of a win-lose one: both parties are netting positive from the interaction.
In life, we should seek out positive-sum games that benefit everyone involved. Some examples of positive sum-games to consider include:
(1) Generosity: Kevin Kelly puts it best: “Perhaps the most counter-intuitive truth of the universe is that the more you give to others, the more you’ll get. Understanding this is the beginning of wisdom.”
(2) Collaboration: tapping into the thoughts and experiences of another person allows us to grow and learn much faster than we can alone, and often times, the interactions between two minds makes for a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.
(3) Teaching: research shows us that teaching is one of the best ways to learn and test your own understanding. Teaching something requires a thorough understanding of your content and applies the generation effect to help us commit knowledge and skills to memory, providing both the learner and the teacher with benefits.
The Daily Highlight ✅
I was introduced to the idea of a daily highlight by the book Make Time and ever since, it's become an important part of my daily routine, helping me to focus on the single-most-important task of each day.
A highlight represents an intermediate between a goal (which is too far-off and hard to take action on) and a task (which is too insignificant and fleeting). The idea is to imagine looking back at your day and ask yourself what single accomplishment made it a successful day? What was your highlight?
A highlight should be something that is important in one of three dimensions: urgency, satisfaction or joy. For instance, a highlight might be:
- Finishing that essay that's due tomorrow
- Adding a new feature to your app
- Going for a long walk at sunset
We then make this highlight a focus that we set aside time in our day to finish, ensuring that we can end each day knowing that our most important task got completed.
I've found the daily highlight to be a useful tool for helping me apply constraints to how I spend my time during the day. Instead of swimming in a never-ending to-do list and feeling guilty about all the things that are left unfinished, the daily highlight keeps me focussed on completing the most high-leverage task and seeing the day as a win.
Start With a Win 🏆
On the subject of wins, I’ve come to realise that the best morning routine incorporates a small win into it. This could be anything from exercise to writing, cooking, or reading, but the idea is just to start your day off with something that gives you confidence and a sense of accomplishment that sets you off on a path to more wins. This morning win is a great example of the decisive moments that James Clear talks about in Atomic Habits: having that one success has a knock-on effect over the rest of your decisions and actions throughout the day.
3 Favourite Saves 💾
Steve Jobs on the Post PC Era is a short YouTube clip that comes from the ‘D8: All Things Digital Conference’ in 2010. In it, Steve Jobs responds to the question of whether he sees a future where the tablet replaces the personal computer. Jobs draws a comparison to the automobile industry and the transition from trucks to cars as the consumer vehicle of choice. Jobs, at the time, said that “PCs are going to be like trucks”, suggesting that while they will still exist for a segment of society, the PC era will become something that we look back on in the future. This uncomfortable reality that he envisioned has yet to take shape, but the analogy itself is a useful one for thinking about how innovation can usurp seemingly untouchable incumbents.
What’s the best way to start a conversation? is a Racket (a new audio sharing app for short conversations) recording between two of my internet friends Reddy and Yina. In it, they talk about doubts and fears when it comes to doing enough and connecting with others online and in real life. Really interesting to hear two opposing experiences on those issues and in particular, I really love this quote from the Hakagure that Reddy brings up: “Matters of great concern should be treated lightly. Matters of small concern should be treated seriously.”
99 Additional Bits of Unsolicited Advice is a blog post from Kevin Kelly whose birthday last week came with another list of wisdom from the futurist, writer and founder of Wired magazine that adds to this widely shared post from last year. I really enjoy that amongst all the aphorisms about work, happiness and meaning, there are little packets of random practical wisdom like “A balcony or porch needs to be at least 6 feet (2m) deep or it won’t be used.”
3 Quotes to Think About 📝
“An obsessive interest in a topic is both a proxy for ability and a substitute for determination” - Paul Graham, The Bus Ticket Theory of Genius
“The truly free individual is free only to the extent of his own self-mastery” - Steven Pressfield, The War of Art
“The frog in a well knows nothing of the mighty ocean.” - Japanese proverb
This is an excerpt from my weekly newsletter Sunday Saves. You can start receiving a curated list of insights by signing up here: