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Weekly 3: Use enthusiasm as a tool

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Idea Journal Weekly 3

July 4 · Issue #198 · View online

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


Summary: It’s sometimes useful to reduce the influence of your emotions when making decisions. But not always. This issue explores how you can use your enthusiasm (or lack thereof) as a tool to make the right choices.
(~3 min read)

#1. Do it only if you really care
Author and entrepreneur Derek Sivers writes on his blog that when you feel over-committed and scattered, you should use the HELL YEAH! or No rule to decide which things to spend your time on.
For each event you’re invited to and every request to start a new project, if your reaction isn’t HELL YEAH!, then just say No.
When you say no to most things, you leave room in your life to dedicate yourself to the stuff that you really want to do – that rare commitment that makes you say HELL YEAH!
As Sivers points out, we’re all busy and in many cases have taken on too much: “Saying yes to less is the way out.”
#2. “If you can’t decide, the answer is no.”
In a Periscope video, entrepreneur and investor Naval Ravikant says that our biology is at odds with the number of choices available to us in modern society.
We evolved in tribes of 150 people, and in that context if you passed on one option, a second option was unlikely to come along.
But in modern society, we’re inundated with options: there are over 7 billion people on the planet, we’re connected to most of them through the internet, and each of us potentially has access to hundreds or thousands of career opportunities.
It can be hard deciding among all the available options.
To make this process easier, Ravikant uses the following decision-making heuristic: If you can’t decide, the answer is no.
For example, say you’re facing one of the below decisions:
  • Should I marry this person?
  • Should I take that job?
  • Should I buy this house?
  • Should I move to that city?
  • Should I go into business with this person?
These are all difficult decisions, and their effects can last far into your future. Because of that, you should only say yes if you’re relatively certain.
You can never be absolutely certain, but you should have a positive feeling about your choice: “You have to internalize it in your gut and in your heart – you have to really want something before you go for it.”
If you find yourself creating a spreadsheet to weigh your options or making a list of pros and cons, “forget it.”
The the answer is no.
#3. "Small successes can grow into big ones, but failures rarely grow into successes"
In his book How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big, author and entrepreneur Scott Adams reflects on his experience trying dozens of business ideas, and writes that a key predictor of a product’s ultimate success is the level of enthusiasm it generates in the beginning.
For Adams, this is true even when the quality of the initial product is poor: a reliable predictor is customers clamoring for the bad versions of a product even before good versions are invented. Over time, the products that inspire excitement evolve to have quality too.
He cites The Simpsons as an example of this tendency.
When the show launched it 1989, it was immediately a national phenomenon – even though the original artwork “looked amateurish” and the writing was bad slapstick.
Adams recalls that wherever he went, the show came up, with people asking: Did you see it?
The Simpsons was a hit despite its surface quality, and it grew to become of the most creative and influential shows of all time.
As Adams puts it, the pattern he’s noticed is things that will someday work out start out well; things that will never work start out badly and stay that way.
Overcoming obstacles is an expected and unavoidable part of being successful, but you shouldn’t stick with an idea for too long out of a misguided sense that persistence in itself is a virtue.
If the first commercial version of your work doesn’t excite anyone to action, you may want to switch to something else.
On the other hand, if your work inspires enthusiasm and some action from initial customers, “get ready to chew through some walls”: you might have something worth fighting for.
Quote of the week
“The true seed of scale begins with a tiny kernel of die hard fans.”
- Entrepreneur and LinkedIn Co-founder Reid Hoffman in an episode of his podcast Masters of Scale
Idea Journal
Idea Journal
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