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Weekly 3: Adaptability > Persistence

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Summary: Persistence in the face of adversity is useful, but not if you’re headed in the wrong direct
 

Idea Journal Weekly 3

September 20 · Issue #157 · View online
We combine 3 ideas to help you think differently and be more creative.

Summary: Persistence in the face of adversity is useful, but not if you’re headed in the wrong direction.
The cliche that change is the only constant contains a key insight that you can use to make your plans more adaptable. This Weekly 3 issue explores a few ideas to help you put that insight into practice.
(~3 min read)

#1. Don’t waste effort fighting the wrong battles
Entrepreneur and musician Derek Sivers writes in Anything You Want that it took him years to learn the right lesson about being persistent: “Success comes from persistently improving and inventing, not from persistently doing what’s not working.”
We all have a lot of ideas and projects. When you present one of them to the world, if the response is lackluster, don’t keep pushing it as-is. Instead, go back and keep improving it and inventing.
Then present each new improvement to the world. If multiple people are saying some version of “Wow, I need this!” or “I’d be happy to pay you for this!” then you should probably pursue it. 
But if the response is anything less, you need to make it better.
It’s not worth wasting years fighting uphill battles against locked doors.
For Sivers, creating the music distribution company CD Baby was his first notable success: “For the first time in my life, I had made something that people really wanted.”
Before that, he had spent 12 years struggling to promote his various projects. He tried numerous marketing approaches, networking, and pitching: “It always felt like an uphill battle, trying to open locked or slamming doors. I made progress, but only with massive effort.”
#2. Apply the scientific method to your everyday life
Researchers Lauren McCann and Gabriel Weinberg write in Super Thinking that the most successful people and organizations “are constantly refining how they work and what they work on to be more effective.” 
Adaptability is more important than ever because economic, social, and technological shifts are happening faster than in the past.
McCann and Weinberg suggest that you can use the scientific method as a framework to help you become more adaptable in your everyday life. 
Formally, the scientific method is a rigorous cycle of making observations, forming hypotheses, testing them, analyzing data, and developing new theories. 
You can apply the scientific method to your life simply by being more experimental. 
For example, think about your attempts to be more productive. You shouldn’t expect to find the ideal setup right away. But if you experiment with different processes, schedules, software, etc. you’ll get closer and closer to the setup that allows you to do your best work.
Or take the issues of diet and exercise. 
What can you change in your diet or routines to help you eat healthier? 
What kind of exercise program can you stick to?
Your first attempts may not be successful. But when you apply an experimental mindset, you’ll increase your chances of finding the approaches that work best for you.
#3. Believe in change to become better at predicting it
Entrepreneur and investor Paul Graham writes in his essay How to Be an Expert in a Changing World that when experts are wrong, “it’s often because they’re experts in an earlier version of the world.” 
If the world were static, then we could have increasing confidence in those beliefs that survived more experiences over time.
But the world isn’t static.
Graham recommends two ways to help protect yourself against obsolete beliefs:
1. Have an explicit belief in change 
Beliefs about the future are “so rarely correct that they usually aren’t worth the extra rigidity they impose, and that the best strategy is simply to be aggressively open-minded.” 
You can have working hypotheses, but you should be disciplined enough to ensure they don’t “harden into anything more.”
2. Bet on people over ideas
Predicting the nature of future discoveries is hard. 
But predicting the kind of people who will make them is easier – good new ideas come from those who are earnest, energetic, and independent-minded. 
As Graham puts it: “If you want to notice quickly when your beliefs become obsolete, you can’t do better than to be friends with the people whose discoveries will make them so.”
Quote of the week
“Yes, change is the basic law of nature … According to Darwin’s Origin of Species, it is not the most intellectual of the species that survives; it is not the strongest that survives; but the species that survives is the one that is able best to adapt and adjust to the changing environment in which it finds itself. Applying this theoretical concept to us as individuals, we can state that the civilization that is able to survive is the one that is able to adapt to the changing physical, social, political, moral, and spiritual environment in which it finds itself.”
- Management professor Leon Megginson in a 1963 speech to the Southwestern Social Science Association
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