Asking Crazy Questions, Avoiding Stupidity, & More

The Christmas Tree Effect, 5-Year Goals, & More

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Here are 5 interesting ideas to spark your curiosity heading into the weekend.

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Today at a Glance:

  • Question: Hitting 5-year goals in 1 year.
  • Quote: Lifelong learning.
  • Framework: Inversion.
  • Tweet: Checkhov's Gun.
  • Article: The Christmas Tree Effect.

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Audacious question to ask:

How would you accomplish your 5-year goals in the next year?

This question is derived from Tim Ferriss, who has a love of embracing challenging questions that I greatly admire.

We all have long-term goals that we want to accomplish, but I have found that allowing them to exist in the long-term part of our brain often eliminates the urgency to make progress on them.

Further, the very idea that they will take multiple years to accomplish is often based on a set of assumptions that we rarely take the time to question or pressure test.

What if you had to hit these goals in the next 12 months?

  • Could you do it if you absolutely had to?
  • What would be required of you in order to make that happen?
  • What sacrifices would you have to make to other areas of life?
  • What changes would you have to make to your surroundings?
  • What thinking patterns would have to be broken?

The point of this exercise is not to actually pursue this sprint (though you may want to).

The point of this exercise is to bring your long-term goals into the front of your mind and strip away any flawed assumptions that are holding you back.

Always remember: You're capable of much more than you think.

The case for lifelong learning:

"Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young." — Henry Ford

Learn with no end in mind. Learn for no reason at all. Learn to learn.

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How I'm avoiding traps on the journey:


"It is remarkable how much long-term advantage people like us have gotten by trying to be consistently not stupid, instead of trying to be very intelligent." - Charlie Munger

Two thousand years ago, Stoic philosophers engaged in a seemingly peculiar daily exercise: they would sit quietly and imagine—in excruciating detail—all that could go horribly wrong in the days, weeks, and months ahead.

They referred to it as premeditatio malorum—the pre-meditation of evils.

The premise: Through the preparation of the mind for the potential worst-case scenarios, we can more aptly avoid such outcomes.

2,000 years later, Charlie Munger, the famous investor most well known as Warren Buffett’s business partner, delivered a classic, quintessentially pithy one-liner:

“All I want to know is where I’m going to die, so I’ll never go there.”

In a nod to the great Stoics of two thousand years in the past, Charlie Munger popularized an important principle:

Complex problems are sometimes better solved backwards.

This mental model for problem solving is called inversion, a name given by German mathematician Carl Jacobi, who was famous for flipping complex math problems on their head in order to solve them.

His famous line, "Invert, always invert."

While I'm not solving complex math problems (and hope I never have to!), I use inversion on a regular basis in my life.

When you encounter a challenging life problem, rather than attempting to solve it forwards, invert and solve it backwards:

  • What do you NOT want to happen?
  • What actions, behaviors, or conditions would create that undesirable outcome?
  • How can those traps be avoided?

Proceed accordingly.

Lesson: You can get pretty damn far in life by avoiding stupidity, and it's much easier than seeking brilliance. Invert the problem, identify the traps, avoid them.

An interesting storytelling technique:

Checkhov's Gun was a new one for me. Now I'm seeing it everywhere.

Short read on the dangers of addition:

The Christmas Tree Effect

Interesting article from David Epstein, author of Range, on the tendency to add rather than subtract.

The Christmas Tree Effect occurs when we continue adding new features to a system (like ornaments on a tree) and eventually end up hurting the overall system, even if each individual new feature is a positive.

Worth a few minutes of your time.

In Case You Missed It:

In Wednesday's issue, I shared 10 lessons learned at my 10-year college reunion.

  1. The Medici Effect is real
  2. Your daily habits show up on your face after 10 years
  3. Insecurity tells, confidence shows
  4. Plans are great, but life will generally laugh at them
  5. Fighting the Zebra Effect is hard (but worth it)
  6. Identity is the real thing we're searching for
  7. Freedom is rare, but incredibly apparent
  8. We get more embarrassing with age (or we're just mature enough to embrace it)
  9. Shared struggle builds unbreakable bonds
  10. Life is much more fragile than you think.

I'll leave you with the quote that I wrote in my yearbook upon graduation:

"Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you've imagined." ― Henry David Thoreau

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Athletic Greens is offering Curiosity Chronicle subscribers an exclusive deal: a free 1-year supply of liquid vitamin D plus 5 travel packs with your subscription purchase. Take advantage of it!

Sahil Bloom
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