Insecure Leaders – Sunday Clippings

Hello there,

This week I wrote a new blog post that you might want to check out. It is about describing the block, an interesting problem solving-skill taken from Kiese Laymon’s recent interview. Moving on to the newsletter now.

This week’s newsletter issue is inspired by a story by Hans Christian Anderson I recently re-read. If you’re not aware, he is a Danish writer famous for writing children’s literature. Most of his stories and poems have a healthy balance of light and dark subjects and convey important moral life lessons which makes them ideal for children to read.

“The Emperor’s New Clothes” is a short story by him that conveys an important lesson about insecure leaders and challenging the status quo. In this story, no one dared to speak the truth as they are scared of appearing unfit for their positions. Except for a little child who wasn’t afraid because he had no position to lose and when he said it, everyone joined him as if they were waiting to let it out.

“But he hasn’t got anything on,” a little child said. “Did you ever hear such innocent prattle?” said his father. And one person whispered to another what the child had said, “He hasn’t anything on”, a child says. “But he hasn’t got anything on!” the whole town cried out at last.

The Emperor shivered, for he suspected they were right. But he thought, “This procession has got to go on.” So he walked more proudly than ever, as his noblemen held high the train that wasn’t there at all.

One of the things that successful leaders have in common is that they want to take feedbacks and are constantly seeking to change and improve. The emperor in this story was insecure and fearful which lead to his ministers being insecure as well. It’s hard to challenge someone superior to you even if they are wrong. But ultimately change is absolutely necessary, especially in the cases where the leaders are wrong themselves.

John Lubans, Jr. is known for his relatively short yet informative essays on leading and leadership. Here’s an excerpt from his book, Library Administration & Management describing the insecure leader –

“Some highly insecure bosses can be decisive and seemingly effective; they are successful at masking the most visible of their insecurities. And if they are in a tradition-bound business with low expectations for innovation, they can be seen as “successful.” However, over time, the less-secure boss tends to develop a largely reactive organization because, in my experience, he employs acquiescent people and avoids independent thinkers.”

I found the last line of this passage particularly interesting, “He employs acquiescent people and avoids independent thinkers”. Acquiescent people are mere puppets nodding at everything the leader says. Hiring them is rather ineffective for the organization as there’s no constructive feedback when all employees agree to everything the leader says. Insecure leaders are biased towards them as they need people to confirm their actions whilst they’re unsure about it themselves.

The emperor cared too much about what people had to say about him and his clothes. Effective leaders are confident within themselves and learn from their mistakes. “Leadership is not the private reserve of a few charismatic men and women. It is a process ordinary people use when they are bringing forth the best from themselves and others.”

Have a great week,
Vedant


This Week’s Clippings

1 – Blog Post – I found one of Morgan Housel’s blog posts this week very interesting. He explains how expectations and forecasts are two separate things. Here are some of the clippings:

“An expectation is an acknowledgement of how things worked in the past and will likely work in the future. A forecast is strapping that idea to a specific point in time. In an ideal world we could forecast investment details with pinpoint accuracy. But we usually can’t, because there are too many moving parts and unknowns to identify exactly when and how billions of strangers will act.”

“There is no reason to forecast unless you’re going to take specific actions tied to that forecast. If you want to take fewer actions without being willfully blind to the future, just have expectations.”

2 – Podcast – This episode on Naval Ravikant’s podcast on how we all are equal in our infinite ignorance. He says, “This brings us to the related point that science is never settled. We should always be free to have new creativity and new conjecture. You never know where the best ideas are going to come from. You have to take every idea that’s made in good faith seriously.”

(This issue is a part of the “Sunday Clippings”. Every week I compile various useful insights, learnings and my highlights from interesting articles, books and podcasts in a short and concise email newsletter. I’d love for you to sign up here and receive the future issues directly to your inbox.)

Inflated Praise – Sunday Clippings

Hello there,

This week I posted three new posts on the blog that you might want to check out: Good Reasoning on giving clear and accurate reasonings, Seeking Sacrifice on breaking out of the Gratification Trap and the difference between Opinions and Observations. Moving on to the newsletter now.

This week’s issue is about Inflated Praise which comes from the same place as bad feedbacks. Inflated praise is very unhelpful, especially for children. You’re telling them they’ve done the “best” in something which leads to unrealistic expectations they create for themselves.

“Adults may also try to raise children’s self-esteem by giving inflated praise. Instead of telling children they did well, adult may tell them they did incredibly well. In one study, adults read scenarios involving children with high or low self-esteem, then wrote down the praise they would give. Adults gave children with low self-esteem more inflated praise (33%) than they gave children with high self-esteem (18%). These findings were replicated in in-home observations of parent–child interactions.”Child Development Perspectives, Volume 10

The fascinating thing here is that inflated praise mainly has two effects on children with low self-esteems – Some of them are able to perform better as the praise might be a form of motivation for them. It creates an incredibly protective surrounding for them where they don’t feel down but rather are supported and encouraged to do better.

The second one is more common, the inflated praise creates large amounts of unnecessary pressure on a child who’s already struggling with low self-esteem and ends up feeling like they have to perform in a certain way to live up to the high standards assigned for them.

An article by Eddie Brummelman on Behavioral Science gives an interesting example: “A teacher told me about a boy in her class, whose mother gives him lots of inflated praise. One day, as the boy was making a drawing, he took a close look at his own drawing, then at the other children’s drawings, and said, “I’m not an amazing drawer… My mom tells me I am, but I know others are better than me.”

Telling someone they’re “extremely” good at something would usually be a false statement which is the reason inflated praise should be avoided while giving feedbacks. It is not realistic and might end up backfiring.

Have a great week,
Vedant


This Week’s Clippings

1 – Blog Post – These five questions in one of Seth Godin’s daily post this week are really useful for making things unclouded in the head.

2 – Article – Something else I saved for sharing this week was an article about Haruki Murakami and the Scarcity of Serious Thought. It’s about how working on creative processes becomes frustrating and stressful when you’re doing it with a full-time job. Here’s an excerpt:

“Against the advice of nearly everybody, he sold his bar, and moved to Narashino, a small town in the largely rural Chiba Prefecture. He began going to bed when it got dark and waking up with the first light. His only job was to sit at a desk each morning and write. His books became longer, more complex, more story driven. He discovered what became his signature style.”

3 – Article – This article about the differences between lifelong learners and skill-seekers. It talks about how skill-seekers are driven by economic benefits or improvements whereas lifelong learners have a lifelong love for learning and intellectual fulfilment. Here’s a clipping:

Skill-seekers are looking for ‘just-in-time’ education and training. They are seeking the fastest, most effective and most affordable options for accomplishing very specific goals. They want raises, promotions and new jobs. They want to put more money on the table for their families. And they want real outcomes and accountability. It won’t just be whether they finished a course or program but whether doing so actually leads to a better work outcome. They aren’t doing this for fun; they’re doing it for funds. And it is critical that any educational institution or employer understand the distinction.”

4 – Software – While learning some new keyboard shortcuts, I discovered a groundbreaking software by Microsoft called PowerToys. It has some really cool features like the pop-up run thing to search your files, colour picker and a feature that aligns your windows in a specific order. These features might not be necessary  for everyone but they’re great for speeding up the workflow system on your computer.

(This issue is a part of the “Sunday Clippings”. Every week I compile various useful insights, learnings and my highlights from interesting articles, books and podcasts in a short and concise email newsletter. I’d love for you to sign up here and receive the future issues directly to your inbox.)

Being Average – Sunday Clippings

Hello there,

This week’s blog posts are A Good Definition on what makes a definition efficient and valuable for the audience and a list of Completed Proverbs by Lisle de Vaux Matthewman. Moving on to the newsletter now.

This issue is inspired by one of the poems I recently read called “To the Average Men” by Wallace Irwin. Wallace is known for his clever and humorous writing and this was the first poem in his book called Random rhymes and odd numbers. It describes the life of an average man, with average circumstances, average expectations and average results.

In this poem, he goes from writing:
“Statistics declare that the Average Man
Finds the Average Woman and mates;
That the Average Family, children all told,
Is something like two and three-eights.
(Though fractional children disturb and appal,
The Average Man isn’t worried at all.)”

to “But deep in the breast of the Average Man
The passions of ages are swirled,
And the loves and the hates of the Average Man
Are old as the heart of the world
For the thought of the Race, as we live and we die,
Is in keeping the Man and the Average high.”

I believe that there are two opinions on this. There’s a set of people who feels that being average makes you happier and more grateful as Wallace writes in most of this poem. It keeps you stress-free as you’re mediocre in everything and aren’t setting unrealistic standards for yourself.

The other point of view is more common – Being average restricts you and deprives you of the greater things you want to achieve. Being average makes your life boring and makes you less ambitious as you start settling with the result you get. I recently overheard someone say, “Aim for higher than you want, this way you’ll be able to at least get what you want.”

I understand both the viewpoints here and there’s a considerable amount of evidence to support both of them. Some studies even suggest that the ‘Better than Average Effect’ is observed because “average” is often construed as the below-median ability:

“[..]when assessing self-enhancement bias in comparative judgments of ability, it is important to ascertain how the judges interpret “average ability” and accordingly interpret the results with caution. When asked to compare their ability to an average person, some people may not grasp the intended meaning of the comparison target (e.g., median ability). Indeed, as studies have shown, when people are asked to compare their abilities to those of a vivid and specific, rather than general, comparison target.”

In my opinion – no one is completely average. The ‘average man’ Wallace describes in this poem doesn’t actually exist. It depends on the choices you make and how you measure being “average”. Choosing mediocrity is restrictive as you’re choosing to remain stagnant. There’s always a difference between who you are and who you want to be.

Have a great week,
Vedant


This Week’s Clippings

1 – Blog Post – I really liked Paul Graham’s essay on having a project of your own which is fun as well as productive. He writes about how we differentiate “work” and “hobby” and how it impacts our productivity negatively. Here’s an interesting clipping:

“If your projects are the kind that make money, it’s easy to work on them. It’s harder when they’re not. And the hardest part, usually, is morale. That’s where adults have it harder than kids. Kids just plunge in and build their treehouse without worrying about whether they’re wasting their time, or how it compares to other treehouses. And frankly we could learn a lot from kids here. The high standards most grownups have for “real” work do not always serve us well.”

2 – Research Article – This paper on how active learning increases student performance from Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences indicates that lecture learning is extremely inefficient. Continuous exposition by the teacher where the students are supposed to take notes and occasionally ask questions is not useful at all. It’s not only boring but is also bad for exam preparation. Active learning methods such as discussions, role-plays and problem-solving seem to be the ideal way to go:

“The data reported here indicate that active learning increases examination performance by just under half a SD and that lecturing increases failure rates by 55%. The heterogeneity analyses indicate that (i) these increases in achievement hold across all of the STEM disciplines and occur in all class sizes, course types, and course levels; and (ii) active learning is particularly beneficial in small classes and at increasing performance on concept inventories.”

3 – Video – I’m attempting to learn how to use the computer more efficiently. A big part of being comfortable with technical devices involves learning the keyboard shortcut for things you do on a frequent basis. Earlier this week I was trying to learn some of these keyboard shortcuts. This video in particular was quite useful. I don’t know how many of them will stick with me but they’re absolute game-changers that save your time once you get a hang of them.

(This issue is a part of the “Sunday Clippings”. Every week I compile various useful insights, learnings and my highlights from interesting articles, books and podcasts in a short and concise email newsletter. I’d love for you to sign up here and receive the future issues directly to your inbox.)

Golden Mean – Sunday Clippings

Hello there,

This week I have published three new articles that you might want to check out: Showing Up Every Day on why it is important to practice something and show up every day in order to learn better. The difference between Mindless Repetition and Deliberate Practice is another post in the practice series I’m slowly working on.

And the bat, ball problem on problem-solving and recognising established rules and facts. Moving on to the newsletter now.

This week had been exhausting. I missed a few deadlines and couldn’t write one blog post a day like I wanted to. This inspired me to write this newsletter issue about Aristotle’s theory of the Golden Mean which is about finding balance in various aspects of life.

In his philosophical work Eudemian Ethics Aristotle constantly uses the phrase “… is the Middle state between …”, he is referring to the idea of moderation and a finding a desirable middle ground between the extremes.

In his notes on virtue he writes, “Virtue is a state apt to exercise deliberate choice, being in the relative mean, determined by reason, and as the man of practical wisdom would determine. It is a middle state between two faulty ones, in the way of excess on one side, and defect on the other: and it is so moreover because the faulty states on one side fall short of, and those on the other exceed, what is right, both in the case of the feelings and the actions; but Virtue finds, and when found adopts, the mean .”

This theory is seen everywhere in life, even in the modern world and is so simple yet significant to understand. He states that the middle ground is usually closer to one extreme than the other and that happens for it’s own good. An example being courage (response to fear), the two extremes are recklessness and cowardice. Here the “golden mean” could be being closer to recklessness than the deficient cowardice.

Similarly, I believe that finding the sweet spot and balance is important in most places like professional work, creative practices, communication and relationships. Locating the golden mean is not something that comes from studying the principles theoretically or reading books about it. We learn more about it with trial and error, practice and experience – just like other things in life.

Many people have summarised the means of moral virtues in tables like this and they are quite perfect. For instance, modesty is one of the virtues given here. It’s in the mean between shamelessness (deficiency) and shyness (excess). Most of Aristotle’s virtues are still relevant and I suppose they’ll always stay relevant as they’re spheres of feelings that are a part of human permanence.

“The people in modern society need to overcome their pride and arrogance and look in nature for guidance because we all depend on it. Staring into the sky and imagining ourselves in heaven will not accomplish anything; it is better instead to accept our role in the world and appreciate the beauty of life, and death, which gives meaning to it. We don’t need “new” and “progressive” ways of life when the ancient wisdom of the world’s greatest thinkers is in front of us, forgotten in the dusty shelves in some crumbling library. The balance, the golden mean of which Aristotle talked about must be recognized as beneficial and important, as it is in nature itself.” – American Nihilist Underground Society

I agree with everything they’ve said here. In the busy work-life, there needs to be a golden mean between the things you have to do and the ones you want to do. And it doesn’t need to be in the middle ground, it can shift towards the more significant duties from time to time. When nothing goes left, don’t go right – stay in the middle!

Have a great week,
Vedant


This Week’s Clippings

1 – Article – Daniel Kahneman’s interview on The Guardian was quite insightful. He’s a Nobel prize-winning psychologist and economist who shares his thoughts on AI, efficiency and emotional inclinations to human systems. Here’s a clipping I have saved for you:

In terms of the attitude to vaccination. People are willing to take far, far fewer risks when they face vaccination than when they face the disease. So this gap between the natural and the artificial is found everywhere. In part that is because when artificial intelligence makes a mistake, that mistake looks completely foolish to humans, or almost evil.”

2 – Podcast – I enjoyed the Modern Wisdom episode with . Jack is a designer, entrepreneur and the founder of , he simplifies complex valuable ideas as visuals that are more appealing and easier to understand. Since he recently had his first-born, they talk about how it impacts his creative processes, lifestyle, the role of algorithm and more.

3 – Podcast – I found this week’s Back in the Thunderdome discussion really informative. In this episode, they share their thoughts on anger, blind rage and the power of pluralism. I learnt that disagreements can be quite useful if they’re coming from the right, constructive place. In fact, having disagreements with your community is important as it makes you understand the values and standards of having them. The conversations you have with people who have the same understanding as you is one of the best ways to develop your ideas.

(This issue is a part of the “Sunday Clippings”. Every week I compile various useful insights, learnings and my highlights from interesting articles, books and podcasts in a short and concise email newsletter. I’d love for you to sign up here and receive the future issues directly to your inbox.)

Without Society’s Soundtracks – Sunday Clippings

Hello there,

This week I published three new articles that you might want to check out: Moulding Habits and the Loop on forming new habits and eliminating the ones that form along the way. Same Eyes, Different Directions on why perspective matters and the importance of taking feedbacks.

And Old Normal and New Normal on the fluid meaning of the word “normal” in context to the pandemic. Moving on to the newsletter now.

This week’s newsletter is about the story of one of the most known and admired composers in classical music, Ludwig van Beethoven and about how he became so deaf to the point he couldn’t hear the notes of his instruments or the singer’s voice and how it later impacted his personal life and career as a musician.

As many of us might know, Beethoven was surprisingly stone deaf. It’s important to know that he wasn’t always deaf, it’s something that developed slowly. The cause is unknown but it is believed that his deafness was caused by syphilis, lead poisoning, typhus, or possibly even his habit of plunging his head into cold water to keep himself awake.

It started when he was just 26 with a buzzing and ringing sound in his ears that started irritating him. It steadily grew and became more and more noticeable even though he tried to keep it a secret. By 1812 when he was 44, Beethoven had gone completely deaf. His hearing ability had deteriorated so much that he couldn’t hear the sound of the instruments playing or the singers singing. Here’s an extract from a letter Beethoven wrote in 1801 to Dr Franz Gerhard Wegeler, one of his close friend.

“… For two years I have avoided almost all social gatherings because it is impossible for me to say to people “I am deaf”. If I belonged to any other profession it would be easier, but in my profession, it is a frightful state…”

He had to start using notebooks as a way to communicate with visitors who wrote down what they wanted to tell or ask him. And in the same way, Beethoven replied by writing his response in his notebook. These are now known as the “Conversation Books“.

Okay, so here’s the obvious question – if he was couldn’t hear at all then did he stop writing and composing music? – No. In fact, Beethoven created his greatest works including the Moonlight Sonata, his only opera Fidelio and six symphonies during this period.

The deafness worked as a gift for Beethoven musically because he couldn’t hear the “prevailing compositional fashions.” It was entirely him and his imaginations that led to his greatest pieces. Arthur Brooks, while discussing this in an article published in the Washington Post writes:

“It seems a mystery that Beethoven became more original and brilliant as a composer in inverse proportion to his ability to hear his own — and others’ — music. But maybe it isn’t so surprising. As his hearing deteriorated, he was less influenced by the prevailing compositional fashions, and more by the musical structures forming inside his own head. His early work is pleasantly reminiscent of his early instructor, the hugely popular Josef Haydn. Beethoven’s later work became so original that he was, and is, regarded as the father of music’s romantic period.”

He ended up wrecking pianos by banging on them so hard to hear the notes. Beethoven had to go through a lot of struggle, frustration and isolation to achieve greatness and influence. His deafness forced him to become very private and only allowing selective friends to meet him.

This seems to be a very important lesson. Sometimes eliminating what society has to say from your ears does wonder. Beethoven proved that the outcomes of creative processes are better without the worldly clutter, even though it might take a toll on an individual’s mental health.

Deafness granted Beethoven complete artistic freedom – not being influenced by what other musicians are producing, not considering people’s comments about his work, just creating sound without even listening.

Have a great week,
Vedant


This Week’s Clippings

1 – Podcast – I really enjoyed last week’s episode of the Tim Ferriss Show with Chip Wilson, a serial entrepreneur and philanthropist. They discussed intriguing things like goal setting, the winning formula, linguistic abstractions and Chip’s theory about turning 43. Here’s one of the paragraphs I highlighted:

“There’re many times when people can’t be in integrity. But to clean up the mess caused by lack of integrity is where more integrity occurs. So that’s the other thing. So the third thing that I think is most interesting to me is this thing about being responsible. I could sense that I was a complainer in life. You know, I complained, complained, complained, but you know, of course we all know that after two complaints, nobody would listen to me anymore. It took me a while to get that. But more interesting is that when I was responsible for whatever the situation was, then immediately I had the power to do something about it.”

2 – Podcast – This podcast episode about Unsticking Yourself and overcoming writer’s block was quite helpful. I ended up re-listening it three times, it’s short but gives a practical exercise for generating new ideas.

3 – Article – I enjoyed reading this Interview with Alex Honnold, a pioneer of “free solo” climbing. He answers many intriguing questions about risk-taking, problem solving, teamwork, efficiency and failure. In free solo climbing, there are no safety ropes and even a slight failure leads to death. Here’s a clipping from the interview:

“… when I’m free soloing, I’ve already prepared and want to stick to the plan. I don’t want to be improvising. That would bring more uncertainty and risk into the equation. So most of my creative processing comes on rest days when I’m lying around somewhere safe, just thinking about climbing. That’s when I’ll envision “enchainments”—combinations of climbs that people have never done before.”

(This issue is a part of the “Sunday Clippings”. Every week I compile various useful insights, learnings and my highlights from interesting articles and books in a short and skimmable email newsletter. I’d love for you to sign up here and receive the future issues directly to your inbox.)

Counting Blessings – Sunday Clippings

Hello there,

I recently read some articles written by Robert Emmons, professor of psychology at the University of California who is one of the most well-known experts on Gratitude. In this issue of the Sunday Clippings, I’ll be sharing a research and social experiment he conducted in 2003 with the help of Michael McCullough, the professor of psychology at the University of Miami and an author.

As a part of the experiment, 192 undergraduate students were given a packet of 10 weekly reports. These participants were then divided into three groups who were asked to reflect upon three major types of conditions respectively: Gratitude, Hassles, and Life Events. Now, here’s the interesting part –

  1. The participants of the Gratitude Conditions wrote things like – waking up this morning, the generosity of friends, to God for giving me determination, for wonderful parents, to the Lord for just another day, and to the Rolling Stones
  2. In the Hassles Condition, the students wrote things like – hard to find parking, the messy kitchen no one will clean, finances depleting quickly, having a horrible test, stupid people driving, and doing a favour for an ungrateful friend.
  3. The participants of the Life Events Conditions wrote things like – talked to a doctor about medical school, learned CPR, cleaned out my shoe closet, flew back to Sacramento, and other circumstances and events that affected them in the past week.

Overall, it was noticed that the participants in the gratitude condition were more satisfied with their lives as a whole, felt more optimistic about the upcoming week, and felt more connected with others than did participants in the control or events condition.

It takes equal effort to record the things you are grateful for as it takes for the things that you’re annoyed by. But it’s more about how the reflections impact you and your perception of life. It’s clear that gratitude manipulation increases the positive effect as well as helps in reducing the negative effect. It totally depends on what you’re focusing on – the blessings or the burdens. The two psychologists open their report with a Charles Dickens quote that conveys the message accurately – “Reflect on your present blessings, on which every man has many, not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.”

Personally, I had never reflected on such stuff properly but this week I decided to give it a try. I wrote a log every day (morning and evening) using the 5 Minutes Journal app by Intelligent Change.

Just within a few days of writing these entries, I found myself making notes on little things that would usually go unnoticed. Doing a decent amount of reflection daily makes you think about time on earth with a broader perspective. You actively get forced to answer those prompts. I have noticed that maintaining a daily log helped me to stay mentally clear and have a more optimistic attitude.

Journaling is something worth giving a try, five minutes a day with a pen and paper is enough if you focus on the right stuff. Think about it this way – People celebrate Thanksgiving once a year but what if it was extended as a daily thing? A Year-Long Thanksgiving!

Have a great week,

Vedant


This Week’s Clippings

1 – Blog Post – One of Seth Godin’s daily blog post this week about Starting and Finishing really resonated with me. In his usual manner, the post is short but impactful. Here’s what he says:

“Sometimes the rule is: You don’t have to finish, but you do have to start. And sometimes the rule is: You don’t have to start, but if you do, you have to finish. When building a personal habit, it might make sense to embrace the first rule. You don’t have to run all the way, every day, but you do have to get out of the house and start running. And when making promises to a group where trust matters, the second rule definitely applies.”

2 – Books – Recently, I’ve bought two books that I’m planning to read in the next two weeks. Firstly, we have The Midnight Library by Matt Haig and then the second one is The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid. Both of them are Historical Fiction and seem really interesting. I was recommended the Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by my friend Anna who has a blog as well.

3 – Podcast – I really enjoyed this episode of The Knowledge Project Podcast with Jonathan Haidt. They talk about how parenting in modern society is becoming increasingly overprotective, the rise of the “call-out culture,” and the dangers of social media. I find the new age Gen-Z challenges quite intriguing, how none of these social media problems existed a decade back and how currently there are rarely any proper resources or awareness to deal with them. Here’s a thought-provoking highlight from the conversation:

“If you can imagine growing up, wherein your teen years you’re always self-censoring, you’re always careful, we think this is what’s happening. This is what many students tell us it’s like. They often just accept it as normal, because that’s all they’ve known. And this means we might have a generation that’s afraid to take risks, afraid to play with ideas. Afraid to challenge dominant ideas. It’s going to lead to a lot more conformity, a lot less creativity.”

4 – Tweet– This tweet by Jack Butcher resonated. While sharing anything, you refine it into the most simplest form for others to consume. Even of you’re just sharing your ideas with a friend or writing it somewhere. Documenting your thoughts is the first step to mental clarity. And that’s what this email newsletter is for me, to share my ideas with you.

(This issue is a part of the “Sunday Clippings”. Every week I compile various useful insights, learnings and my highlights from interesting articles and books in a short and skimmable email newsletter. I’d love for you to sign up here and receive the future issues directly to your inbox.)

Learning Loop – Sunday Clippings

Hello there,

This week I wrote a post about Practice and Repetition, two steps that are the building blocks of developing any skill. This idea comes from a book called Art and Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland who put this down to a simple skill of pottery. I also wrote a post about the “Red Queen Effect” which is an idea that comes from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.

It was my birthday last week so I compiled all my lessons from the last year as a blog post. It’s personal but I saw many writers sharing their favorite life lessons on the internet so I decided to follow the crowd. On to the newsletter, now!

Recently one of the highlights has been learning content through online mediums and finding effective ways to do so. Here’s an interesting concept I came across recently called the Learning Loop. The Learning Loop is based on the idea that to accelerate learning it needs to be implemented in our day to day life. It’s easier to learn things from actual experiences that run in a loop than the basic conceptual understanding.

A great part of this is based on taking reflections and feedback from yourself. When something less or more effectual happens, a concise reflection increases the quality of the learning and impacts how long it sticks with you. While discussing this concept in an article, Shane Parrish, the founder of Farnam Street writes,

“Think about a clock: at twelve o’clock on the dial, you have an experience. At three o’clock, you reflect upon that experience. At six, that reflection creates an abstraction—a mental model—and at nine, you go on to take action based on that. Draw little arrows between them, and you can visualize this loop of learning. Mostly we skip the reflection part. We just want to get to the point. We want the answer so we gloss over the experience and the reflection to get to the abstraction, which answers the question what should we do.”

This is usually where a problem arises, it’s the difference between Single and Double-loop learning method. The practitioners of Single-Loop Learning follow a short-term approach. It’s meant for learning things, getting the result and hopping onto the action associated with it. The problems and their solutions here are too close to each other.

The Double-Loop Learning often follows a longer line of action but is more effective. The key features of this organizational system involves assumptions and self-awareness. In the Double-Loop Learning, making assumptions about the material helps to incorporate it in an established manner. While having a solitary loop does work but transitioning it out into actual learning is based on multiple loops of repetition and reflection than just consuming information for the result.

Asking questions like “What are the patterns?”, “What are the details?”, “What did work and what didn’t?”, “What do I need to do in order to keep moving forward?” and answering them helps to increase the clarity of the abstractions in our mind. Usually, consuming content alone isn’t enough, a dedicated learning loop if required for effective learning. That’s all I wrote for this issue. I hope you learnt something new. :)

Have a great week,

Vedant


This Week’s Clippings

1 – Online Course – Recently, I have signed up for multiple classes on Skillshare. The one I’m taking at the moment is about learning Complete Web Design with Vako Shvili. You’ll learn how to create web designs using apps like Figma (Photoshop alternative) and Webflow. I think Web Design is a very useful skill to have for future projects plus it’s fun to learn. I recommend this class if you want to familiarise yourself with these apps for creating designs online.

2 – Blog Post – This blog post on Paul Graham’s blog about Crazy New Ideas is a must-read. Here’s a highlight that resonated – “When a new idea first emerges, it usually seems pretty feeble. It’s a mere hatchling. Received wisdom is a full-grown eagle by comparison. So it’s easy to launch a devastating attack on a new idea, and anyone who does will seem clever to those who don’t understand this asymmetry.”

3 – SNL – I was excited for yesterday’s Saturday Night Live with Elon Musk as the host. I really enjoyed the Gen-Z Hospital skit and the Chad on Mars skit. Overall, it was quite entertaining. Miley Cyrus’ live performances were excellent. SNL seriously needs to hire better scriptwriters though.

4 – Video – It’s intriguing how behind the scenes of production are more interesting to watch than the content itself. Here’s a video on how Steve Giralt, a visual engineer makes food commercial using visual engineering, robotics, advanced camera work and a lot of creativity.

4 – Quote – “More effort is wasted doing things that don’t matter than is wasted doing things inefficiently. Elimination is the highest form of optimization.” (Source: James Clear’s 3-2-1 Newsletter)

(This issue is a part of the “Sunday Clippings”. Every week I compile various useful insights, learnings and my highlights from interesting articles and books in a short and skimmable email newsletter. I’d love for you to sign up here and receive the future issues directly to your inbox.)

Vaccine Hesitancy – Sunday Clippings

Hello there,

This week I wrote a post about the difference between Constructive Criticism and Hate and about how I think feedbacks should be given. Right then, on to the newsletter.

This week has been overwhelming with the second surge of Covid in India. And even though the vaccines are being made available for people to get and India being one of the fastest vaccine producers, there has still been a surge in the country because of the large masses of unvaccinated people.

Some folks are getting affected after getting the vaccine which discourages others. Do vaccines work? Is it safe to go to the vaccination centers? The only way out of the covid spike at the moment are the vaccines, not just for India but for the whole world.

The covid vaccines do work and researches have shown that it’s quite rare to get the virus after you’ve been vaccinated and even if you do, there are very few chances of it being life-threatening. It is important to know that only two or four people out of 10,000 can get covid after vaccination and the number of breakthrough infections are very small in number and are not worrisome.

Even after getting both doses, wearing masks and following the guidelines is essential until the majority of the country gets vaccinated. Its due to this surge that the vaccination process will be delayed and affected. India not only needs to get more vaccines but also, needs to make the process faster. In an article disusing this, Dr Rosenbaum writes,

“Of course, people who are determined to undermine confidence in vaccines will always find ways to spread misinformation. But a much larger proportion of the population may be willing to get vaccinated given the proper reassurances, and dismissing their concerns often leaves them seeking someone to validate them.

I suspect that’s one reason why correcting misinformation often falls short. Some people, for instance, may truly believe that vaccines cause autism. But for others, this ostensible fear may mask less easily expressed needs such as maintaining one’s identity, belonging to a group, or simply being heard. And yet respecting these more basic instincts also raises an uncomfortable question: At what point does empathy sacrifice scientific truth?”

Now personally, I know that vaccines are not 100% effective but it does prevent people from being hospitalized. And the surge is caused by fewer beds in hospitals and more infected people. At least 80 -85% of the people need to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity and places being close to normal. The good news is that the hesitancy rate in India now down to 23%.

Still, many people need to be educated. At this stage, it’s significant to overcome any vaccine hesitancy and participate in protecting yourself and the people around you.

Have a safe week,

Vedant


This Week’s Clippings

1 – Podcast – I’ve been fairly erratic with my podcast consumption. It’s hard for me to sit idle and listen to something which is the reason I feel the audio can run in the background while you’re doing something less engaging. This conversation between Tim Ferris and Seth Godin was really educative and enjoyable. A small but useful piece of practical writing advice Seth gives is –

“This is easy. Write poorly. Continue writing poorly. Write poorly until it’s not bad anymore and then you’ll have something you can use. People who have trouble coming up with good ideas, if they’re telling you the truth, will tell you they don’t have very many bad ideas. But people who have plenty of good ideas, if they’re telling you the truth, will say they have even more bad ideas. So the goal isn’t to get good ideas; the goal is to get bad ideas. Because once you get enough bad ideas, then some good ones have to show up.”

2 – Article – Here’s an interesting article about how Gen-Z Has a Bad Case of “Main Character Syndrome”. I find it funny how people find new ways to romanticizing the day-to-day to day life which in a sense is good considering how stressed and exhausted the mental health has been during the pandemic. This reminds me of an article I wrote about the main character thing a few months back.

3 – Video – Here’s an amazing video about why Wednesdays should be a weekend instead of Saturday. It made me think about how thoughtless and cruel it is to ask people to work for five days without any breaks. It’s unproductive and tiring as everybody (from school students to office workers) is waiting for Saturday and proper sleep.

(This issue is a part of the “Sunday Clippings”. Every week I compile various useful insights, learnings and my highlights from interesting articles and books in a short and skimmable email newsletter. I’d love for you to sign up here and receive the future issues directly to your inbox.)

When I Grow Up – Sunday Clippings

Hello there,

This week, I posted an article about why Practice is so Important? I’m slowly working on building a series of blog posts about practice, this post though is research-based and about an interesting experiment on about practice. I also posted another blog post about why I think the “Tools Don’t Matter”. I’ve seen people who are super obsessive about apps and notebooks and phone models. The materialistic bits are just distractions that stop you from working. Now, on to the newsletter.

One of the highlights of my week has been making the important life decision of which profession I want to take up as an adult. And honestly, I don’t know myself. I see my interests as subjects, not as careers. I know that I like science, math, history, English literature, computer science but does that mean I’ll have to become a doctor, historian, writer, engineer or computer scientist?

Some people have their aims clear but it isn’t for me. I am bad at setting long term goals and I don’t understand how people are expected to decide what they’ll be doing for thirty or forty years when they’re just inexperienced teens.

Austin Kleon says, We are not nouns, we are verbs. I am not a thing – an actor, a writer – I am a person who does things – I write, I act – and I never know what I am going to do next. I think you can be imprisoned if you think of yourself as a noun.” This is exactly what I’m trying to convey. Thinking about sticking to one thing seems boring and risky. What if it’s tedious? What if I figure out I don’t find it enjoyable halfway through?

It seems that “when I grow up” isn’t a small decision, it requires a very careful thought and a lot of planning. It’s something you’ll be dedicating your whole life to and that’s some pressure. While discussing this subject in an article, Abigail Lane writes –

“With the retirement age rising to 67 by 2026-28, young people will soon work for 50 years or more. I realise that choosing the profession I want to follow and university courses that will get me there – is a decision of paramount importance. But I can’t help thinking that it’s too much for an inexperienced seventeen years old to make. With students choosing careers that may not suit them, a worrying scenario could emerge: we could be stuck in careers like round pins in square holes. This is detrimental for the students because reconsidering a career is an enormous decision.”

Now personally, I think that at this stage it is more important to perfect your skills than eyeing a definitive profession that may or may not be in demand in future. With new personality based careers emerging, it’s important to study the subjects you’re interested in (in the best way you can) but not assuming a permanent career for yourself.

For instance – I like science and I’ll study science. I’ll give it my best but I’m not hoping for a specific science-based career (like a doctor). After studying the basics, I can decide which science-based career I’ll be pursuing based on the future circumstances.

Also two decades back, professions like Digital marketer, Youtuber, App Developer, Data Scientist didn’t even exist. These terms had never been heard of and the people who practice these careers today didn’t aim for these certain careers when they were teenagers.

They chose them because of their skills not because of a set of memorized knowledge. When I grow up, I want to do something worthwhile for work with a bunch of side hustles to moderate it. We are verbs, not nouns. I am a person has certain interests that I want to gain more knowledge on. Hopefully while studying them I’ll be able to figure out the particular profession.

Have a great week,

Vedant


This Week’s Clippings

1 – Article – Who’s the first person that comes to your head when you hear the word ‘genius’? Albert Einstein, right? Here’s an article about how Einstein become the poster boy for genius. He certainly wasn’t the only superhuman. He became a cognitive celebrity as he lived in the special sliver of time – after the lights of fame had begun to shine bright, and before science came to be seen as a team sport.

2 – Article – I recently discovered this older article on one Seth’s blog. The post is about the difference between memorization and learning. Learning is understanding the concept and memorizing is just a short-term way to cram and pass the test. Seth’s blog has the most relatable and inspiring daily notes.

3 – Video – In this ABC interview from 1974, they were talking about having computers on our desks by 2001 which will allow people to work from home and access their banking records. This video made me think about how much technology has advanced under five decades. We are the computer dependent society which was being predicted that time.

4 – Quote – “…do every day or two something for no other reason that you would rather not do it, so that when the hour of dire need draws nigh, it may find you not unnerved and untrained to stand the test.” (Source: Habit by William James)

(This issue is a part of the “Sunday Clippings”. Every week I compile various useful insights, learnings and my highlights from interesting articles and books in a short and skimmable email newsletter. I’d love for you to sign up here and receive the future issues directly to your inbox.)

Value of Simplicity – Sunday Clippings

Hello there,

This week I posted my notes on the Flynn Effect theory which suggests that the IQ scores of the general population are rapidly increasing over time. This article is an overview with more information to help you understand the theory, some causes and how the IQ scores once rose and have started declining now with the use of technology.

Right then, on to the newsletter.

Recently, one of the highlights of my life has been making things simpler and easier to manage. When things start piling up, the ones at the bottom start disappearing. At this point, it seems important to remove the clutter.

Something I have noticed is that we live in a world full of procrastinators. We don’t do the things that we don’t have to. This week, I had been hunting to find the most basic note-taking app that’s straightforward and just does the job of taking notes. No unnecessary features, just a simple app where I can write drafts and meeting notes. I found the one called Simplenote (it’s named appropriately).

While writing using this software, you can’t make things bold, italic or underline them. You can’t add photos, videos or tables. It’s interactive and syncs across all my devices. I don’t always use the several features Microsoft Word offers. Infact, many people never use most of those features. Steve Jobs, the late CEO of Apple, an American entrepreneur and investor, once said that –

“That’s been one of my mantras — focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex. You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”

The one takeaway from this issue is to remove clutter and keep what you need. It saves time and increases the clarity of mind. Otherwise, the brain has fifty tabs open and you don’t know where the music is coming from.

Have a great week,

Vedant


This Week’s Clippings

1 – Book – Currently, I’m reading the unabridged version of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. I’m hooked to the storyline and it’s a great inclusion for my quest of reading classic books of all time.

2 – Video – I really enjoyed this video about the biggest, deadliest and weirdest creatures to walk on the Earth. It’s made using latest fossil evidence and immersive computer graphics that looks really cool.

3 – Video – This video about hygiene during the Black Plague. More than 50 million people or half the continent was wiped out as the bubonic plague swept through Europe in the 14th century. A really intriguing video from one of my new favorite channels.

4 – Quote – “People who excel tend to obsess over the details. People who struggle also tend to obsess over the details. The difference is what details they focus on. Minutiae vs polish. Most things don’t matter—but when it does, you want to get the details right.” (Source: James Clear’s 3-2-1 Newsletter)

(This issue is a part of the “Sunday Clippings”. Every week I compile various useful insights, learnings and my highlights from interesting articles and books in a short and skimmable email newsletter. I’d love for you to sign up here and receive the future issues directly to your inbox.)