Weekly I/O #44
Education or Training, Writing like Shopkeeper, FAB with Alcohol, Trust and Cheat, Productivity is Distraction
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 Sep 02, 2022
Here’s a list of what I’m exploring and pondering this week.
1. To be prepared against surprise is to be trained. To be prepared for surprise is to be educated.
James Carse’s perspective on the difference between training and education highlights what I think the school system should be.
Too many people complain about how their undergrad fails to prepare themselves for the job market. However, I believe the purpose of undergrad should not be training for the occupation. The proper expectation for university should be an education that makes people more resilient and adaptable to uncertainty. For job hunting, one should seek other resources, such as online courses, bootcamp or self-learning, that aim to train for specific skills.
In other words, training makes the future less uncertain, while education makes the future less confined. In James Carse’s more poetic words:
“Education discovers an increasing richness in the past, because it sees what is unfinished there. Training regards the past as finished and the future as to be finished. Education leads toward a continuing self-discovery; training leads toward a final self-definition. Training repeats a completed past in the future. Education continues an unfinished past into the future.”
This view is also quite similar to what Kevin Kelly mentioned in his 103 Bits of Advice I Wish I Had Known:
Rather than steering your life to avoid surprises, aim directly for them.
Don’t keep making the same mistakes; try to make new mistakes.
2. Set out time to write regardless of how you feel that day. It doesn’t matter if it’s good or not. Sit down and type. Refuse to bargain with your subconscious that says “I’m dry. Let’s try tomorrow”.
It’s hard to feel “it is a good time to write” all the time. I am often terrified by the blank page I’m going to work on or feel dry and have no inspiration to write. This makes me procrastinate on writing since I find an excuse and just want to find a better time with enough motivation and momentum.
“Every morning I get up and at 6.30, I sit down at this typewriter and I type until noon. And it doesn’t matter if it’s good or not. I just got to keep typing.”
Seth learned that “Well, if you’re going to type anyway, you might as well type something good.” And so something good came up. But he refused to bargain with the self-conscious ever and say, “Oh, I’m dry. I’m getting up.” Nope. Just Type.
This also resonates with me with another quote I learned recently by Amos Oz:
“[For writing] I think of myself as a shopkeeper: It is my job to open up in the morning, sit, and wait for customers. If I get some, it is a blessed morning, if not, well, I’m still doing my job.”
3. Fading affect bias can improve the overall positivity of life but also reinforce maladaptive behavior. It makes heavy drinkers harder and light drinkers easier to say no to alcohol.
In Weekly I/O#43.2, I introduced a psychological phenomenon called Fading Affect Bias (FAB), which basically says our happy memories keep us happy for a longer time, while our bad memories won’t make us unhappy long. It sounds pretty comforting in the first place but can also be harmful since it can reinforce maladaptive behavior. For people smack in the middle of quitting alcohol, FAB can make them forget how bad a hangover feels faster but retain the tipsy joy longer.
This research paper suggested that FAB can vary between low-frequency and high-frequency drinkers. For high-frequency drinkers, FAB is more noticeable in alcohol events than in non-alcohol ones. Therefore, that might make it harder for them to say no to alcohol in the future.
For low-frequency drinkers, FAB is less evident in alcohol events than in non-alcohol events. In other words, low-frequency drinkers won’t forget the negative feeling in alcohol events as fast as in non-alcohol ones. They might find alcohol events so unique that they are unprepared to cope with the rapidly shifting and extreme emotions. Therefore, low-frequency drinkers might find their pleasant and unpleasant feelings associated with alcohol events fade at similar rates.
Though I said before that it is quite therapeutic to know good things stay longer than bad ones due to FAB, it is noteworthy that FAB may reinforce the tendencies of individuals by selectively making emotional responses fade slower or faster.
4. Getting cheated occasionally is the small price for trusting the best of everyone, because when you trust the best in others, they generally treat you best.
Related to what Kevin Kelly also said in the article:
If you loan someone $20 and you never see them again because they are avoiding paying you back, that makes it worth $20.
5. Productivity is often a distraction. Don’t aim for better ways to get through your tasks as quickly as possible. Rather aim for better tasks that you never want to stop doing.
I’ve been pondering on the equilibrium of productivity optimization recently. I see people changing their note-taking, calendar, and to-do list apps every three to six months in search of the optimal productivity system. Optimizing productivity can be a rabbit hole, and I used to enjoy diving into what’s down there.
However, I’m wondering whether the improvement in productivity can justify the time spent and switching costs in terms of the outcome.
Currently, I think it is more important to think about what to work on than how to do it. Kevin Kelly said that “productivity is often a distraction”. Staying busy improving our productivity can be fun and make us feel productive. Nevertheless, the time saved by the improved productivity might come with a higher cost of not working on anything. Even worse, we might lose focus on what to work on when we focus too much on the incremental progress in our productivity system. We can always feel productive without actually producing anything.
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