FS | BRAIN FOOD
No. 468 — April 17, 2022 — Read on FS
Welcome to Sunday Brain Food: a weekly newsletter full of ideas and insights that never expire.
“Learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed. Think of the old cliché about the mind being an excellent servant but a terrible master. This, like many clichés, so lame and unexciting on the surface, actually expresses a great and terrible truth.”
“When you first start to study a field, it seems like you have to memorize a zillion things. You don’t. What you need is to identify the core principles – generally three to twelve of them – that govern the field.”
— John Reed
Today, not tomorrow.
What you avoid today is harder to do tomorrow.
Today’s choices become tomorrow’s position. If you put off things today, they don’t magically disappear tomorrow. They just get added to the list of things you want to do.
Don’t wait till tomorrow. Tomorrow is where dreams go to die.
Explore Your Curiosity
“You don’t have to be at a party to see this phenomenon in action, but there’s a curious thing I regularly see at parties in social circles where people value intelligence and cleverness without similarly valuing on-the-ground knowledge or intellectual rigor. People often discuss the standard trendy topics and explain why people working in the field today are doing it wrong and then explain how they would do it instead. I occasionally have good conversations that fit that pattern, but the more common pattern is that someone with cocktail-party level knowledge of a field will give their ideas on how the field can be fixed.
Asking people why they think their solutions would solve valuable problems in the field has become a hobby of mine when I’m at parties where this kind of superficial pseudo-technical discussion dominates the party. What I’ve found when I’ve asked for details is that, in areas where I have some knowledge, people generally don’t know what sub-problems need to be solved to solve the problem they’re trying to address, making their solution hopeless. After having done this many times, my opinion is that the root cause of this is generally that many people who have a superficial understanding of topic assume that the topic is as complex as their understanding of the topic instead of realizing that only knowing a bit about a topic means that they’re missing an understanding of the full complexity of a topic.”
“For most Harvard undergrads, our lives during Covid aren’t that different from the way they have always been. To get into this university, we chose to detach ourselves from normal human experiences, neglecting our interests, hobbies, robust social lives—anything that couldn’t appear on a college application or be touted in an interview. Almost everything in life was subordinate to whatever was necessary to get into college. Once we arrived on campus, we certainly had more fun than we did in high school, but our tendency to conform hasn’t gone away, especially as we pursue our next goal, whether at Goldman Sachs or in graduate school. There is little difference between mask compliance and the grueling sports practices and marathon study sessions we did in high school. Covid restrictions are simply requirements we tolerate to attain the next credential.
Our life’s mission has been to please those who can grant or withhold approval: parents, teachers, coaches, admissions officers and job interviewers. As a result, many of us don’t know what we believe or what matters to us.”
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“When someone is giving you feedback, they’re doing you a favor. Even if they’re breaking all the rules in this essay, even if you’re upset to hear about your mistakes, and even if you think they are wrong and you shouldn’t change your behavior, they’re giving you the gift of information you didn’t have before.”
Dr. Andrew Huberman, Professor of Neurobiology at Stanford University, offers some practical tips on how you can control your impulses. Why do people throw away everything they worked for in a moment? How can you train your brain to be more disciplined?