Brain Food: What They Never Taught You About Surprise

FS | BRAIN FOOD

Good morning,

Welcome to Sunday Brain Food: a weekly newsletter full of timeless ideas and insights for life and business.

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FS

Our brains employ two modes of thinking to tackle any large task: focused and diffuse. Both are equally valuable but serve very different purposes. To do your best work, you need to master both.

Focused and Diffuse: Two Modes of Thinking

Explore Your Curiosity

★ "This article argues that efficient doesn’t necessarily mean effective. It argues that more productive doesn’t necessarily mean more powerful. And it argues that being mass, ignored and expensive are not points of weakness but, in fact, points of strength."

The Errors of Efficiency

(This article is about advertising, but the point can be generalized and seen everywhere. Here are a few thoughts I had around the broader idea.

A lot of organizations focus on efficiency over effectiveness rather than being effectively efficient. It doesn't matter how efficient you are if you are not effective.

Often when we decide what's efficient, we do so on too short of a timeline. What's efficient in the short term is often increasingly fragile.

The costs of efficiency are everywhere -- just look at buying a car today. The 'just in time' inventory system of the manufacturers had only a few days of key parts in it. Of course, this is what every business school teaches. When supply chains got disrupted, factories were temporarily shuttered. All because a bigger buffer of these parts would show up on the balance sheet and look, at least temporarily, 'inefficient.'

The world is less predictable than we think. Random events happen with unpredictable results. The way to weather these is to have margins of safety, shock absorbers, and slack — in other words, inefficiency.

Inevitably, people will consider the latest disruption a fluke and no one will learn the lesson: When you remove the shock absorbers, you get the shocks. Don't win the moment at the expense of the decade.)

★ "The shortest distance between two points is reliably a straight line. If your dreams are apparent to you, pursue them. Creating optionality and buying lottery tickets are not way stations on the road to pursuing your dreamy outcomes. They are dangerous diversions that will change you."

The Trouble with Optionality

Insight

“It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.”

— Elinor Smith

Tiny Thought

We tend to think that what we think is true. And because we think something is true, we ignore information that might tell us it’s not true.

Charles Darwin deliberately looked for thoughts that disagreed with his own. He wrote, “whenever a published fact, a new observation or thought came across me, which was opposed to my general results, to make a memorandum of it without fail and at once; for I had found by experience that such facts and thoughts were far more apt to escape from memory than favorable ones.” Darwin was out for truth, not to confirm his view of the world.

“If someone is able to show me that what I think or do is not right, I will happily change,” Marcus Aurelius said. “For I seek the truth, by which no one ever was truly harmed. Harmed is the person who continues in his self-deception and ignorance.”

Surprises alert you to flawed thinking. When results are not what you expected. When facts disagree with you. When someone does something unexpected. “What surprise tells you,” my friend Adam Robinson says, "is that your model of the world is incorrect.” And when your model of the world is incorrect, you need to figure out why.

When you catch yourself saying “that doesn’t make any sense,” “that shouldn’t happen,” “I didn’t expect that,” you’re surprised. That’s your cue to pay attention.

Surprises are a clue that you’re missing something. Dive and figure out what.

Et Cetera

+ Eminem talking about the rap craft.

+ Why birds can fly over Mount Everest.

+ Esther Perel explains why your partner criticizes you.

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Stay safe,
— Shane

P.S. The reply to this tweet by T. Boone Pickens.







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