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How a Genius Solves Problems (by putting details second)

Amazing article on solving problems by first understanding essentials of the problem (not the solution). Simplify and focus on the big picture or “core” of the problem before jumping into details.

👉 Claude Shannon: How a Genius Solves Problems

Finding the true form of the problem is almost as important as the answer that comes after.

I practically want to copy and past the whole article in here, but here are a few select highlights.

Finding the core problem

…it is to get the bigger picture right before you go chasing after the details. Otherwise, you start by pointing yourself in the wrong direction.

Shannon’s reasoning… was that it isn’t until you eliminate the inessential from the problem you are working on that you can see the core that will guide you to an answer.

Looking at the problem in different ways

One of Shannon’s go-to tricks was to restructure and contrast the problem in as many different ways as possible. This could mean exaggerating it, minimizing it, changing the words of how it is stated, reframing the angle from where it is looked at, and inverting it.

In every day life

Much of life — whether it’s in your work, or in your relationships, or as it relates to your well-being — comes down to identifying and attacking a problem so that you can move past it.

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Optimism is not always > pessimism

👉 https://blog.liberationist.org/the-bright-and-dark-sides-of-optimism-and-pessimism-95c6092f560c

I’d consider myself to be an optimist, even against overwhelming evidence at times. It’s a sort of faith. It’s fun to be optimistic and see what happens. I like to give the middle finger to negativity.

While this article acknowledges the positive powers of optimism, it also details the surprising advantages of some healthy pessimism. I may need to work on leveraging some pessimism more, especially while estimating projects and budgets!

Pessimism can help us prepare and do our best work, increase desire and enthusiasm to improve things, and even reduce anxiety by motivating focus over avoidance. 🤯

Highlights…

The down side of optimism

Multiple research has shown that optimism has a dark side too. Not only it can lead to poor outcomes, but it makes us underestimate risks or take less action. 

Optimists pay less attention to detail and fail to seek new information to challenge their rosy views leading to poor decisions.

The Optimism Bias is one of the two key factors why we inaccurately calculate big projects — we tend to underestimate both time and cost.

Defensive pessimism

Defensive Pessimist is a particular type of pessimist that takes negative thinking to a whole new level. It’s a strategy that helps people reduce their anxiety — it drives focus rather than avoidance.

The defensive pessimist focuses on the worst-case scenario — s/he identifies and takes care of things that optimists miss. This approach can help us better prepare for events that are out of our full control such as a job interview.

Meliorism

In philosophy, Meliorism is a concept which drives our ability to improve the world through alteration — we can produce outcomes that are considered better than the original phenomenon.

Meliorism doesn’t mean ignoring the world’s evils. But to accept life’s setbacks as challenges to overcome. This joie de vivre energizes us — it boosts our desire and enthusiasm

You

Why You Procrastinate — And What You Can Do About It

HIghlights

Procrastination is emotional

We put something off when there is a negative mood about it. By putting it off, we (1) get some momentary relief and (2) increase negativity about the task. This makes us want to put it off more. So it becomes an “especially vicious” cycle. We momentarily feel better by putting off an unwanted task, and we learn to dislike the task more the more we put it off. 😑

This only compounds the negative associations we have with the task, and those feelings will still be there whenever we come back to it, along with increased stress and anxiety, feelings of low self-esteem and self-blame.

Procrastination is irrational

When we procrastinate, we’re not only aware that we’re avoiding the task in question, but also that doing so is probably a bad idea. And yet, we do it anyway.

With procrastination, we are overly focused on the present and tend to look at our futures self (who has to do the task) as a different person, and the thing we’re putting off as “somebody else’s problem”. 🤷🏻‍♂️😳

Dealing with procrastination

Aka “The Bigger Better Offer”. Make it easier and feel better to not procrastinate than to procrastinate.

Procrastination is about emotions, not productivity. The solution doesn’t involve downloading a time management app or learning new strategies for self-control. It has to do with managing our emotions in a new way.

Do it!

  • Consider only the next action
  • Make your temptations more inconvenient
  • Make the things we want to do as easy as possible
  • Forgive yourself for procrastinating. This can actually break the cycle!
  • Practice self-compassion. (Side note, this also “boosts motivation, enhances feelings of self-worth and fosters positive emotions like optimism, wisdom, curiosity and personal initiative.”)
  • Be curious about your own feelings on the procrastination
You

How to Actually, Truly Focus on What You’re Doing

Summary

The goal is deep work. Avoid “persistent attention residue” by avoiding “quick checks” of your phone, websites, etc.

Seems like this basically boils down to clearing out the time and space to focus on deep work.

Concentration is like a super power in most knowledge work pursuits

  • Actively include “deep work” blocks of time in your day and protect them. Use your calendar if you need to. Make deep work a habit rather than rely on willpower.
  • Embrace boredom. Frequently expose yourself to boredom. If you whip out your phone every time you get bored, your brain will build a Pavlovian connection between boredom and stimuli. So when it comes time to think deeply (which is boring in the sense of lacking constant stimuli), your brain won’t tolerate it.
  • Quit (reduce?) social media. Be intentional and selective about what digital channels you allow into your life. Helps protect your ability to focus.
  • “Drain the shallows”. Shallow work does not require extended concentration (check email, schedule meetings). If your day becomes dominated by shallow work, you won’t get to the deep work that really moves the needle. Aggressively minimize shallow work and be organized and productive about what remains.

Book – Deep Work