FS | BRAIN FOOD
No. 465 — March 27, 2022 — Read on FS
Welcome to Sunday Brain Food: a weekly newsletter full of ideas and insights that never expire.
“I think nowadays there’s so much opportunity and so much reward for ‘go’ that we don’t train the ‘no go’ pathways. ”
“Light is perhaps the most powerful stimulus for our mental, physical health and for our performance in every endeavor. We often miss this point because the effects of light are what we call slow and integrative. … If you don’t view light for half a day or for a day you’re okay. But what light does is it sets the foundation of our abilities and it does that indirectly, and directly.”
→ I sat down with Neuroscientist and Stanford University School of Medicine professor Dr. Andrew Huberman to discuss what he’s learned about light, sleep, productivity, and slowing the aging process. Listen to this episode on FS (with show notes), Apple Podcasts, Spotify, watch on YouTube, or read the transcript.
“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
— Eleanor Roosevelt
One of the best ways to improve performance is to change where you start.
You don’t need to start at the bottom of the mountain to get to the top. You can learn from the people that came before you.
Standing on the shoulders of the people that have done what you want to do changes your starting position. You’ve unconsciously done this all your life. Consider how you learned calculus in school. Isaac Newton climbed the calculus mountain years ago. And while you might never reach the summit, you’re certainly not trying to work out everything for yourself. Learning from his work allows you to start halfway up the mountain.
There is a wrinkle worth pointing out. Most of what you learn in school changes slowly. However, in the real world, a lot of what you need to know to get ahead changes quickly. And that means finding someone with a lot of experience and learning from them isn’t the best approach.
Experience can be deceiving. When I worked at the three-letter-intelligence agency, I had a mentor who was 25 years older than me. While it was well-intentioned, the specific advice he offered me to get ahead wasn’t relevant anymore. It worked for him 25 years ago, but the environment had changed too much. However, his general advice was spot on.
When starting a new job, find the person that just got promoted from the role you got hired into and ask them for specific advice. The word specific is important. These are the tools, the techniques, the skills that worked in the same situation you’re coming into. If you talk to someone who climbed the mountain a long time ago, odds are the specific advice isn’t as relevant as things have changed.
You control your starting position more than you think. For specific advice, find someone a step or two ahead of you. For general advice, find someone older who can put things in perspective.
Explore Your Curiosity
“Not everything improves with time. There are a number of things that people did better in the past, both because of lost wisdom but also simply because in the past things weren’t mass-produced. Beautiful older dresses, hand-stitched rugs, even kitchen appliances used to be sturdier and last longer. You can go purchase a mass-produced cheap samurai sword online, but you’d be a fool to use it in a fight against a blade of 20-times folded steel, even if the latter were ancient. Stradivari violins, hand-crafted by members of the Italian Stradivari family, are legendarily considered to have a superior and unique sound compared to violins made with even the most modern techniques.
A child going from governesses teaching them multiple languages to renowned scholars tutoring them in advanced mathematics is similarly not replicable in today’s world. In turning education into a system of mass production we created a superbly democratic system that made the majority of people, and the world as a whole, much better off. It was the right decision. But we lost the most elegant and beautiful minds, those mental Stradivari, who were created via an artisanal process.”
“Effective practice isolates the skills that are necessary to produce results. Researchers like to distinguish between drills and scrimmages. Drills distort the game so as to work on a specific skill under maximum concentration. Scrimmages mimic the game to get a feel for the cadence and circumstances. Skill transfer is the degree to which working on a skill in one setting translates into another.”
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