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Weekly 3: Place better bets on the future


Idea Journal Weekly 3

October 17 · Issue #213 · View online

We combine 3 ideas to help you think differently and be more creative.

Summary: You can increase your odds of being right in the future by experimenting more, starting from first principles, and being willing to change your mind.
(~3 min read)

#1. See your life as a series of experiments
Author and journalist Charles Duhigg points out in an interview that there are “a thousand different systems or prescriptions” to help you become more productive: from exercise regimens to mental models.
But there isn’t one method that works for everyone. 
Therefore, the most productive people try different options, paying close attention to their reactions, and learning from the results.
For example, say you try meditating to increase your focus, but you find it boring. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you should rule out meditation forever. 
Try it again, perhaps changing the time of day or setting. 
And if that still doesn’t help you focus, try another activity altogether like getting eight hours of sleep each night or jogging. 
The key is to keep trying things until you find one that works for you.
#2. What do you know is true?
Researchers Lauren McCann and Gabriel Weinberg define intuition as a “gut feeling, drawing on your past experiences and natural programming to react to circumstances.”
For McCann and Weinberg, one way to make your intuition more accurate is to argue from first principles. 
When you use first principles, you deliberately start from scratch.
Arguing from first principles can decrease the likelihood that you’re wrong: “it means thinking from the bottom up, using basic building blocks of what you think is true to build sound conclusions.” 
For example, consider your next career move. 
Most people looking for work will apply to a bunch of jobs and take the first one that is offered to them. But this is unlikely to be their optimal choice.
Instead, when you use first principles you start by thinking about what you truly value in a career (e.g., autonomy, status, values), your required job parameters (e.g., location, money, title), and your previous experience. 
If you add up these considerations, you’ll have a much clearer picture of what’s best for your next career move. Then you can seek out relevant roles.
#3. Don't be afraid to change your mind
Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos believes that “good leaders are right a lot.” 
And for Bezos, a key reason why they are right more often than others is that they change their minds a lot. 
He acknowledges that frequently changing your mind is generally seen as a negative trait. For example, in politics you’ll likely be looked down upon as “flip-flopping.”
But as Bezos puts it, the rationale for changing your mind a lot is straightforward: “The world is so dynamic that if you don’t change your mind a lot, you’re just, by definition, going to be wrong a lot.”
Yet this doesn’t mean that the people who are right a lot are simply lucky. 
Instead, what Bezos is referring to is people who are willing to question their own assumptions. 
“They work very hard to discipline themselves, they want to disconfirm their foundational biases and things. And this is very unnatural for human beings. We are very selective in our evidence gathering.“
We generally prefer to look for evidence that confirms our assumptions and our biases.
But if you actively look for evidence that disconfirms your views, then you’re going to be right more often.
Quote of the week
“In most of our decisions, we are not betting against another person. Rather, we are betting against all the future versions of ourselves that we are not choosing.”
- Author and professional poker player Annie Duke in her book Thinking in Bets
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