Weekly I/O #28
React to Reaction, Why to Buy, Fears and Suffering, Fact and Story, Rose Rose Thorn Bud
Weekly I/O is a project where I share my learning Input/Output. Every Sunday, I write an email newsletter with five things I discovered and learned that week.
Sign up here and let me share a curated list of learning Input/Output with you 🎉
The below is extracted from the email sent on Jun 20, 2021
1. Can we react to our reaction or even react to our reaction to our reaction?
Comedy Special: Bo Burnham: Inside
Inside is a comedy special written, directed, filmed, edited, and acted all by Bo Burnham. In one segment of the special, he is on the piano playing a song about how being an unpaid intern is essentially like being illegal slave labor. After the song, he starts to react to the music he just did as a reaction video. But after the song ends, the video doesn’t end there. The reaction video he just did then starts playing. Therefore, Burnham does another reaction video to the previous reaction video own video, and the loop continues over and over again.
While reacting to his reaction video for the first time, he is self-aware about his being a douchebag in that reaction video. However, as he reacts to reaction video to another reaction video, he asserts that being self-aware about being a douchebag doesn’t make him less of a douchebag.
I find the idea of an infinite reaction video loop fascinating. First, can we react to our reactions in our daily life? I think the answer is yes. It can be seen as a type of self-reflection. We can also find similar ideas in Buddhism, like being aware of our own emotions and observing them or as a mental model, like what people call Second-order thinking or to think our own thinking. Therefore, same as the infinite reaction video loop, we can dive even deeper to observe our observation of emotions or to think our thinking about our thinking.
Second, even after observing our emotions or thinking about our thinking, we might still behave exactly the same way. No matter how deep we react to our reaction, to react is still always the very first step and to change or to improve is another step that requires effort.
Thanks to Yen Chen Chiang for recommending me the Special and thanks to Everett Key and Jui-An (Ryan) Wang for helping organize the watching events.
2. Buy what you would buy if you were the only person on Earth.
We buy things for all kinds of reasons. I think buying everything (or even doing everything) due to extrinsic motivation is not an optimal behavior in the long term.
We are Status-Seeking Monkeys. We might buy things to increase our social capital, to impress others, or to seek status. These are all not intrinsic motivations for purchasing something. If we mainly rely on extrinsic motivation, we are handing over our control of evaluating the value of things to other people. In other words, we give up full control of our own feelings.
A heuristic for this is that whenever we want to buy something, we first ask ourselves: would I buy this if I were the only person on Earth. Apparently, there are some exceptions (I won’t buy a ping pong paddle if no one can play with me). However, this heuristic serves as a great filter for me in terms of buying stuff.
3. “A man who fears suffering is already suffering from what he fears.” — Michel de Montaigne
Every time before taking a cold shower due to absolutely no reason, I’m thinking about “The man who fears suffering suffers from fear.”
4. We have to learn to separate the fact from the story.
“I failed the biology class” is different from that “I failed my parents.” The first one is a fact, and the second one is a story. “I’m an alcoholic” is different than that “no one will trust me again.” The former is a fact, while the latter is a story.
Separating fact and story is exactly like the REBT’s ABC Model I learned in Weekly I/O #25. In the ABC model, our activating events (A) is the fact, our belief (B) is the story.
5. A simple way to teach and practice the awareness of gratitude: Rose, Rose, Thorn, Bud.
When talking about teaching and practicing the awareness of gratitude with his kids, Neil Pasricha talks about a simple practice: Rose, Rose, Thorn, Bud.
Every night at the dinner table with your family, each family member says two Roses of their day, which are the highlights for your gratitude, a Thorn, which is something that didn’t go well, and a Bud, which is something you look forward to.
That’s it. Thanks for reading and hope you enjoy it. If you would like to receive the content every Sunday, sign up below 😎