Thursday, July 30, 2015

Learning Optimism

Being positive is associated with the feelings of happiness and achievement. And more importantly positive thinking can be learnt. Here are three ways how negative people think and how it can be replaced with positive thinking.
  • Permanent. Situation: A girl rejected a boy. Negative: Ohh.I'm doomed. I will not be able to have a girl in my life. Positive: There are lot of girls in this world. If not this, then I can find someone else.
  • Pervasive. Situation: A person's joke bombed. Negative: I knew I was not funny. Stupid of me to try this. Positive: Ok, this joke didn't fit for this audience. I will try some other joke.
  • Personal. Situation: A person got a angry answer from someone. Negative: I know he doesn't like me. Thats why he shouts and doesn't want to talk with me. Positive: Ok, seems that that guy is having a bad day today. Hope his problem is resolved soon.
See how different the perspectives are ? If you can think of any situation not as permanent, pervasive and personal but as temporary, localized and impersonal, it is easy to be more positive.
From - Learned Optimisim by Martin Seligman courtesy of FightMediocrity( .

Increasing your will power

  • Get enough sleep. If you dont get enough sleep you are like an intoxicated person or like a person with ADHD. Then it is difficult for you to resist unhealthy or useless stuff.
  • Meditate. Willpower is like a muscle. If you excercise the muscle, it will become stronger. Meditation is like excercise for the mind. During meditation, you get multiple thoughts to derail you but you will learn to ignore them and concentrate on the object of interest. The more you meditate, the easier for you to ignore the useless stuff.
  • First thing first. Willpower is a limited resource. So you have to use it carefully. The best way to use it is to build good habits so that good things become automatic. If a habit is ingrained, you don't need to expend willpower to do that. The mind will do it on auto pilot. Another thing is to use the limited willpower you have to do difficult and creative things first rather than checking facebook or answering email.
Source: from the book How to have more will power - by Kelly McGonigal 

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Holistic Learning

Holistic Learning - Scott Young
  • In our brains information is not organized neatly into boxes but it is linked to other information we have.
  • So if we form multiple constructs and find links between them, then we should be able to retrieve them easily.
  • Since they will be linked like a web, even if we lose (forget) one link, we can easily work out the whole domain based on the other links.
  • To form constructs, we need to create models which can be simple ones just to understand the concept at hand.
  • Once the models are formed, then can be linked together to form constructs.
  • This works well in fields which is built upon concepts like science, math, relationships etc. but it will not work on fields just built arbitrarily like law, vocabulary etc.
  • It also doesn't work on skills which are learnt subconsciously by practice like golf or any sport.
How can we build good constructs
  • To form models, it would be helpful to viscerally experience the concept. It is not just visualization but sight, sound, touch and feel the thought. You can start by drawing the concepts on paper, but with practice we can do this entirely in our mind.
  • We can form models by visceralization but they will not be linked, we can use metaphors to link the models. We can do this by playing a game of 'this reminds me of..' even though they seem ridiculous at first, you should be able to form links which would strengthen the construct.
  • In this stage, we need to test our construct to reduce errors and fill any holes it might have. The best way is to solve problems with the concepts we have learnt. If we are having to solve the same problem again and again, it means we haven't formed models and constructs well. Just studying wouldn't really strengthen the model. Active recall helps test the models as we don't have anything else to fall back on.
You can read the book here for a more thorough explanation. 

Friday, July 3, 2015

Smartcuts - book summary

Smartcuts by Shane Snow looks into lives of people who have achieved success by working smart instead of working just hard and tries to explain the techniques they have used in their life for reaching success faster. Here are smartcuts... 

  1. Skip the ladder. Parley what you have with something bigger and better. Jump the ladder to a different field example. Get small wins while switching ladders as it lowers the resistance to subsequent proposals.
  2. Train with the masters. Either directly or indirectly by watching their videos or reading their books. 
  3. Get rapid feedback - in a permissive environment - For e.g. a comedy club where participants get rapid feedback about what is working and what is not working will let them quickly improve their craft. Try to get quick feedback on whatever you're working on. 
  4. Use Platforms - use what you have now as a platform for something better. This can be also be seen in software engineering platform where all the low level details are abstracted and we can work on high level instead of bothering about the low level ones. 
  5. Superconnectors - use superconnectors to reach more people. JJ Abrams an american director used the help of superconnectors to reach the top, but even after he got success he worked together with other people to help them. 
  6. Ride A Wave - The best way to catch a wave is to be in the water when the wave comes. And the best way to  be in the water when the wave comes is to keep some time aside for swimming. For e.g Google has 20% time for their employees, so they can use that time to work on what is interesting to them. That way they were able to ride the wave of using ajax for  faster email client (GMail). 
  7. Momentum - Harness the momentum caused by superconnectors . When a superconnector mentions or gives you publicity you should be ready to use that momentum. For e.g if a youtube video goes viral, you should be able to build on that momentum. The book talks about an example where a hair stylist's video went viral and since she had a list of videos already created, people noticed them and she was able to get more subscribers. On the other hand a comedian's video also went viral but he didn't have anything else to show for more than couple of months and the momentum created by the superconnector was lost. the book also talks about how the Oreo cookie had prepared for SuperBowl ad and how the ad agency created momentum. 
  8. 10X thinking - We are not very motivated by low hanging fruit, but we are more motivated by impossible think 10x. How SpaceX motivated people to not give up after few failures and how it inspired people to reach the goal of better rocket. 
  9. Simplicity - Start from first principles. If people wanted to improve transportation they could have bred better horses instead of inventing automobiles.