Weekly I/O #39

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 April 03, 2022

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

1. “He suffers more than necessary, who suffers before it is necessary.” — Seneca

Quote

This is my single favorite quote from Stoicism. Related to Michel de Montaigne’s quote in Weekly I/O #28.3, “A man who fears suffering is already suffering from what he fears.”

It’s almost cliché to say we should not worry about things we can’t change. That said, I think the ability to worry less is more like a skill we have to practice than an inborn personality that not everyone can have. If we think, “I just cannot be less worried about those things”, we would always suffer from unnecessary worries.

Likewise, Stoicism (and its Eastern friend Buddhism) is something that requires practice. Of course, it is hard or sometimes even seems impossible to be free from fear (like I’m still sometimes irrationally afraid of taking an airplane, encountering bees), but it is definitely worthwhile to practice avoiding to be suffered from it consciously.

2. Values are only useful if we can legitimately disagree with them since good values should explicitly indicate the tradeoff.

Podcast: Mark Zuckerberg on Long-Term Strategy, Business and Parenting Principles, Personal Energy Management, Building the Metaverse, Seeking Awe, the Role of Religion, Solving Deep Technical Challenges (e.g., AR), and More

In the latest Tim Ferriss’ interview with Facebook/Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Mark talked about the six organizational values of Meta. [1]

He thinks values are only useful if we can legitimately disagree with them. Values like “be honest” are not that helpful because you obviously have to be honest. If you have to write that down, then something might go wrong already.

Therefore, if we only get to write down five or six concepts to code into the company’s culture, we want them to be those things good companies can reasonably do differently.

Mark thinks good values are useful when they force us to give something up in order to get certain benefit. Take the most famous Facebook’s value, “Move Fast,” as an example:

“So around Move Fast, we’ve always had this question, you can’t just tell people to move fast. The question is: what’s the deal? What are you willing to give up? And famously, it used to be Move Fast and Break Things. And the idea was that we tolerated some amount of bugs in the software in order to encourage people to move quickly. Because moving fast, I think, is the key to learning. You want to increase the iteration cycle so that way you can get feedback from the people you serve quickly, and then incorporate that into the product. So we would literally get into situations where competitors of us would ship once a year, once every six months, and we’d ship code every day. Of course we’re going to learn faster, and we’re going to build something better if you’re shipping something every day. So the question is: what are you willing to give up?” [2]

Useful values should be embedded with the indication of their tradeoff. This view is also related to what the COO of Yahoo, Dan Rosensweig, said: “Every organization sucks, but you get to choose the ways in which your organization sucks”.

[1] Meta’s current six values are: “Move Fast”, “Focus on Long-Term Impact”, “Build Awesome Things”, “Live in the Future”, “Be Direct and Respect Your Colleagues”, “Meta, Metamates, Me”. It is interesting to compare these with Amazon’s Leadership Principles, which indicate conflict directly within principles, and the tradeoff depends more on the employee’s decision.

[2] Transcript from: The Tim Ferriss Show Transcripts.

3. There’s a physical world and a digital world. And the real world is actually both. Being digitally present in a place that they physically can’t be present doesn’t mean it’s not real.

Podcast: Mark Zuckerberg on Long-Term Strategy, Business and Parenting Principles, Personal Energy Management, Building the Metaverse, Seeking Awe, the Role of Religion, Solving Deep Technical Challenges (e.g., AR), and More

As to the rise of remote work, Mark thinks it is good since a lot of research shows people’s opportunities — social, economic, and otherwise — are generally pretty anchored to physically where they are. When people can feel more present together even they are physically in different places through virtual and augmented reality [1], it naturally unlocks more social and economic opportunities. Therefore, people will have more freedom to choose to live where they want, maybe where their family physically is, a country they grew up in, while all the opportunities available around the world. Mark thinks it’s one of the most promising things about the future.

Under this context, some people draw the juxtaposition saying that there are the digital world and the real world. However, Mark uses a different taxonomy. There’s a physical world and a digital world. And the real world is actually both. Using technologies like AR/VR to be present in places that they physically can’t be is not only powerful but also real. [2]

[1] In another Mark Zuckerberg’s interview with Lex Fridman, Mark Zuckerberg: Meta, Facebook, Instagram, and the Metaverse, it mentioned the goal of the metaverse is not to build technology for people to interact with, but to build technology for people to interact with each other.

[2] This is another view on what’s “real”, which is different from Weekly I/O #22.2, “Virtual is not opposed to real but opposed to actual”. The French philosopher Gilles Deleuze stated that both actual and virtual are fully real. While the former has a concrete existence, the latter does not, but it is no less real for that fact. Like some conceptual inventions which people pursue, such as freedom, equality, justice, we won’t say these aren’t real just because they are virtual or haven’t been realized. This distinction is initially treated as an esoteric interest only to specialists in the field of ontology. However, since the advent of computer games, or more especially now we have Virtual Reality technology, this distinction has become more essential. It reminds us that what is seen or experienced on screen is still real, even if it is not actual.

4. Another way to think about money’s effect on happiness is money gives an atmosphere of growth. Being able to spend more money is proof of growth.

Book: The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun

Can money buy happiness? If yes, there’s not only consumerist indulgence that can lead to happiness.

Like Gretchen Rubin, the book’s author, I also very rarely feel cash register happiness. Instead, I’m usually struck by buyer’s remorse when spending money. Why I’m still motivated to buy things? In this case, the author provides another explanation: money’s effect can be part of the “atmosphere of growth” [1]. Being able to spend more money to provide for loved ones or strangers, to master something new, to possess an admired object, or even just to buy organic food, is proof of growth. In this way, material growth is the evidence of spiritual growth, which is also very satisfying and can bring happiness.

One source of happiness is changing. We measure our present against the past, and we’re happy if we see positive change. In a study, people were asked whether they wanted a job paid 30,000 in year one, 40,000 in year two and 50,000 in year three, or a job paid 60,000 in year one, 50,000 in year two and 40,000 in year three. In general, people preferred the first option given the fact that they would earn 30,000 more in the second option [2]. Though their decision might seem irrational, the people who chose the first option took the importance of growth to happiness into consideration. People are very sensitive to relative changes, for better or worse.

The novelist Lisa Grunwald came up with a brilliant summation of this happiness principle: “Best is good, better is best.”

[1] In her study of happiness, Gretchen Rubin identified The Eight Splendid Truths of Happiness, where the atmosphere of growth is the first splendid truth of happiness.

[2] If we also consider the time value of money, choosing the second option will be even more lucrative.

5. How to find a healthy balance between self-acceptance and self-actualization? Enthusiastic Self-improvement.

Article: How do we balance the healthy belief that we’re “enough as we are” with the healthy desire for self-improvement?

One of the most challenging and interesting struggles is to balance between self-acceptance, “I’m satisfied as who I am now”, and self-actualization, “I should strive for excellence and actualize my full potential”. When facing failure, the former prevents us from negative emotions while the latter motivates us to try more. However, the two mindsets are contradicted each other.

Spencer Greenberg has an interesting approach called Enthusiastic Self-improvement: “I am enough as I am, but I’m really excited about continually becoming a better and better version of myself!”

That’s it. Thanks for reading and hope you enjoy it. If you would like to receive the content every Sunday, sign up below 😎

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Voracious learner | Software developer | Cornell Tech student | Better Medium Stats: bit.ly/2RH8Jsf | Medium Articles List: chengweihu.com/blog

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Cheng-Wei Hu | 胡程維

Cheng-Wei Hu | 胡程維

Voracious learner | Software developer | Cornell Tech student | Better Medium Stats: bit.ly/2RH8Jsf | Medium Articles List: chengweihu.com/blog

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