Weekly I/O #51

True Learning, Solomon’s Paradox, Never Too Good, Opposite of Courage, Unintentionality and Mistake

Cheng-Wei Hu | 胡程維
4 min readFeb 6, 2023

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 Jan 29, 2023

1. True learning is understanding. True understanding is linking new information to existing knowledge and applying it to problems.

Book: How to Take Smart Notes

We have to take notes in our own words because that forces us to elaborate new information with existing knowledge (vocabulary). Zettelkasten Method further forces us to incorporate new things with our cognitive structure.

This also relates to Meaningful Learning Theory, which adds the importance of applying. “Meaningful learning occurs when the learner interprets, relates, and incorporates new information with existing knowledge and applies the new information to solve novel problems.”

2. Solomon’s Paradox: When helping ourselves make decisions, imagine helping a friend.

Article: The 10 Best Ideas I Learned in 2022

We are better at solving others’ problems than ours because detachment yields objectivity. Therefore, when helping ourselves to make a decision, we can imagine we are helping a friend.

This well-known old concept strikes me again because the tech companies here in the bay have been having massive layoffs recently. I could give suggestions to my friends who are expecting layoffs in their companies. Nevertheless, I failed to acknowledge and apply the same suggestion myself when my company was also expecting to let go of people.

3. You should never think you’re too good to do a job, and you should be like that in everything you do.

Podcast: Jocko Podcast 221: Jonny Kim. Navy SEAL, Doctor, Astronaut. The Unimaginable Path.

I’m revisiting this podcast episode (see my brief introduction in Weekly I/O#7.2), and many things in the episode inspire me again.

To help pay out his tuition, Jonny got a job giving out parking tickets in school. From giving orders in combat operations as a Navy SEAL to giving out parking tickets, Jonny takes that as an exercise in humility. I guess that’s why despite all the crazy accomplishments, he can still be humble and consider himself physically and mentally average.

“You should never think you’re too good to do a job. You should be like that in everything you do. Being a forever new guy is what I try to emulate.

“I don’t mean you shouldn’t step up to be a leader, but never think that you are above taking out the trash or that you’re above not respecting the secretary. The moment you start to think you’re better than anyone else, you have poisoned yourself.”

4. The opposite of courage is not cowardice but conformity.

Video: “No creative person I know has ever asked for a brainstorming session” — Brian Collins | D&AD Talks

Brian Collins, Chief Creative Officer of my favorite design company COLLINS, gives a talk commenting against the popular lean startup methodology in silicon valley.

I found this talk intriguing because it conflicts with many concepts I’ve learned. Brian roasted the words “iterate”, “design thinking”, “brainstorming”, “minimum viable product”, etc. This reminds me of those heroic founder/designer images. “You educate your user. Not another way around.”

Brian mentioned Steve Jobs once said he only wanted to make “insanely great products”. But now, we focus on “minimum viable product” in the valley. Brian Collins comments on how all the branding he likes (Burberry, Rimowa, Saint Laurent) has become so homogeneous. “The opposite of courage is not cowardice. The opposite of courage is conformity.”

This also reminds me that if we ask ten people to agree on a flavor of ice cream, they will always pick vanilla or chocolate. Crowds don’t agree on what’s interesting. They agree on what’s easy. Consensus also implies average.

5. If all we have is structure, we won’t have magic. What we also need is unintentionality, like a mistake. Unintentionality is the real secret of creating interesting work.

Video: “No creative person I know has ever asked for a brainstorming session” — Brian Collins | D&AD Talks

To get things done, we must consider intentionalities like resources, materials, deadlines, and KPIs. However, if all we have is structure, we won’t have magic. What we also need is unintentionality, like a mistake.

At COLLINS, they never leave serendipity to chance. They accommodate mistakes because mistakes create rhythm, spontaneity, and a sense of humanity. Mistakes give it magic.

I found the concept of accommodating and even emphasizing mistakes very artistically humane, especially if you click on the video link and see Brian’s comments to apologize for a mistake he made in the talks.

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



Cheng-Wei Hu | 胡程維

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