3 New Ideas 💡
Goodhart’s Law 📊
Goodhart’s Law is summarised as the following: “when a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.”
Metrics are useful because they are indicators of progress towards a goal - test scores are (supposed to be) an indicator of one’s learning, weight is an indicator of one’s health, revenue is an indicator of how much value a company is providing. But it can be easy to get caught up in chasing after numbers. When purely optimising for figures, goals can become disentangled from metrics which can drive us to work on the wrong things or in the wrong ways.
James Clear gives a few examples of this idea in Atomic Habits: “If your success is measured by quarterly earnings, you will optimize sales, revenue, and accounting for quarterly earnings. If your success is measured by a lower number on the scale, you will optimize for a lower number on the scale, even if that means embracing crash diets, juice cleanses, and fat-loss pills.”
With every measurement, we should start with a few questions - is this an appropriate indicator? what are some possible unintended consequences? can the metric be gamed? - and consider Goodhart’s Law.
Measure Discomfort 🥱
Tackling important projects and doing good work a lot of the time comes down to doing things we might not enjoy in the moment and embracing discomfort in the pursuit of long-term benefits. By quantifying that initial discomfort we experience - for example by timing how long it takes us to feel good about the choice of waking up at 6 in the morning - we can feel empowered knowing that that discomfort is momentary and insignificant in the grand scheme of things.
The Theory of Constraints 🚰
The theory of constraints describes how systems are limited not by a multitude of equally important factors but rather a single choke point along the metaphorical pipe that limits the output of the whole system. The three principals of the theory - (1) there is only one 'weakest link' in the chain (2) the output of the system is limited to the output of that bottleneck (3) targeting that constraint is the single way to improve performance - suggest that instead of working on a slew of unrelated improvements, that we should identify and tackle the single greatest problem each step of the way.
3 Favourite Saves 💾
Stop Waiting for the Ripe Idea is a short piece from Salman Ansari who reminds us that much like fruit, the ‘sweetness’ of our ideas are hard to gauge without cutting them open and having a taste. The best thing we can do is to take action on our ideas and cultivate a farmer’s intuition for what is a good idea through repeatedly testing them out for ourselves. Salman’s advice reminds me a lot of what Yvon Chouinard said on his interview with Guy Raz: “If I get an idea, I immediately take a step forward and see how that feels, if it feels good, I keep going and if it feels bad, I step back.”
Introverts, Extroverts and Identity Signals is the latest episode of the Not Overthinking podcast where Ali and Taimur explore the question of why when there are divisions in society, one group tends to consider their grouping a much stronger part of their identity than the other (eg. people will tend to describe themselves as introverts but not as extroverts). They talk about how signalling, scarcity and fear of judgement plays a role and why memes are a good way of ‘getting down with the kids’ and understanding hidden narratives/perspectives of certain groups.
John O’Nolan is the founder of the blogging platform Ghost (which my own website runs on). In this episode of the Indie Hackers Podcast, John describes how deciding to give up on his youthful ambition for starting ‘the next big thing’ and instead focussing on a project of passion led him to starting the non-profit company that now generates $3.3M in annual revenue. He talks about how his domain expertise from being a WordPress developer, selectivity in catering to a specific audience and focus on building a good product drove Ghost to go from a mockup he shared from his Airbnb in Brazil to what it is Today (or more accurately, what it was on March 16th 2017).
3 Quotes to Think About 📝
“All of us (by which I mean all of us, both normal and not-so-normal) are imperfect human beings living in an imperfect world.” - Haruki Murakami, Norwegian Wood
“Spend each day trying to be a little wiser than you were when you woke up.” - Charlie Munger
“Men exist for the sake of one another. Teach them then or bear with them.” - Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
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