Weekly I/O #30

Quick Decision Test, Goal Gradient Effect, Sub Specie Aeternitatis, Give Advice, Give Correction

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.

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The below is extracted from the email sent on July 11, 2021

Here’s a list of what I’m exploring and pondering this week.

Book: How to Decide: Simple Tools for Making Better Choices

Annie Duke is a poker champion and the author of another interesting book Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don’t Have All the Facts. In How to Decide, she talks about when people should decide quickly and when they should slow down to gather more information. She introduces three tests that, if a decision passes any of these three tests, we can make a quick decision.

The first is the Happiness Test. When stuck on a decision like what to eat for dinner, which movie to watch, we should ask ourselves: “Will my happiness depend on this decision a week from now?”. If not, we can decide quickly.

The second is the Only-Option Test. Most decisions are determined by threshold. In other words, we collect options and decide which one meets our satisfaction threshold. However, when we have two or more options that meet our standards, spending hours determining which option is the best is often just a waste of time. If going to company A has an 85% chance of being a good opportunity and going to company B has an 84% chance, just flip a coin and stop worrying and wasting time. The faster we pick, the more time we have to get more prepared for the opportunity. Therefore, when stuck on a decision between multiple great options, isolate one and ask ourselves: “Would I be happy to take it if this were my only option?” If yes, we can decide quickly.

The third is the Two-Way Door Test. In Jeff Bezos’s words: “Some decisions are one‐way doors. If you walk through and don’t like what you see on the other side, you can’t get back to where you were before. But most decisions aren’t like that ‐ they are changeable, reversible ‐ they’re two‐way doors. If you’ve made a sub‐optimal two‐way door decision, you don’t have to live with the consequences for that long. You can reopen the door and go back through”. Therefore, when stuck on a decision that might be a two‐way door decision, ask ourselves: “Is the decision easily reversible?” If yes, we can decide quickly.

Article: Goal Gradient Effect: How rewards can improve your customer experience

A 10-space coffee card pre-stamped twice will motivate the customer to complete the card more than an 8 with no pre-stamps. As proposed by the American psychologist Clark Hull, the Goal Gradient Effect describes that people are motivated by how much is left to reach their target. In other words, as humans are getting closer to a goal, the motivation to make efforts toward that goal increases.

The application of this effect can be easily found in many loyalty programs (Starbucks’ loyalty cards) or the use of progress bars (LinkedIn’s profile completion process).

This effect also reminds me of the Zeigarnik Effect, which I learn at Weekly I/O #27, that states people remember uncompleted tasks better than completed tasks.

Book: Great Thinkers

The Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza argued that there’s two way of looking at life: to see it egoistically from our limited point of view (Sub specie durationis in Latin or under the aspect of time) or to see it globally and eternally (Sub specie aeternitatis in Latin or under the aspect of eternity).

Sensual life pulls us towards a time-bound view in egotistical terms. However, Spinoza tries to teach us to look at things, especially our suffering and anxiety, under the aspect of eternity. That is, as though we were gazing down our body at earth from a very far away planet. From this lofty view, anything that makes us disappointed no longer has to be so severe. What is a failure in a job interview when contemplated from the lunar surface? What is a rejection from the crush under the earth’s 4 billion year history?

Our nature always limits our views. But our reasoned intelligence can give us access to another perspective. As Spinoza put that, it can allow us to participate in eternal totality.


Book: Coach Wooden and Me: Our 50-Year Friendship On and Off the Court

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Voracious learner | Software developer | Cornell Tech student | Better Medium Stats: bit.ly2RH8Jsf | Medium Articles List: chengweihu.com/blog