Sunday Wisdom No. 71
Most of us aren’t willing to fail. We may understand intellectually that we’ll fail once in a while if we are trying something new, but most of us aren’t ready to take that punch to the gut.
Happy New Year!
👋 Hi, I’m Abhishek. Welcome to Sunday Wisdom—a weekly advice column on decision-making, clear thinking, creativity, and everything else that’s stressing you out in business and life. I appreciate you being here. If you are loving Sunday Wisdom, you can buy me coffee or share this newsletter with a friend.
I’ve been working on something interesting for a while, and now it’s time to share it with you! If you want to learn everything there is to know about generating new ideas, improving creativity, and becoming a thought leader, I’ve created just the course for you.
It’s called “Reengineered Thinking”, or in short, RE:Thinking.
We are all experts at information consumption. Even though we may read 10 articles a day, watch 50 videos a week, and finish 100 books a year, when it comes to converting the collected information into actionable knowledge, we don’t do a very good job.
On top of that, most of the content we consume is garbage. They may be well crafted, but bulk of them don’t add anything new to our existing knowledgebase. We often don’t realise this because we engage in passive consumption instead of active utilisation of information.
Schools are responsible for this mishap. They have never taught us how to question what we consume, how to reinterpret what we learn, and how to generate new ideas from our existing knowledge.
This creates serious problems in real world because here you not only need to effectively organise your wealth of knowledge, but also identify the gaps in your knowledge and generate ideas consistently to win arguments, persuade others, and make better decisions. That’s where this course comes in.
Reengineered Thinking (RE:Thinking) is a live 4 week online program where you’ll learn effective strategies to organise your growing knowledge in various fields, identify the gaps in your understanding, and form new ideas based on what you already know.
What I’m Thinking
Make Your Failures Insignificant
“If you think that’s a big failure, we’re working on much bigger failures right now. I am not kidding. Some of them are going to make the Fire Phone look like a tiny little blip.” That’s Jeff Bezos after Amazon’s flagship product the Fire Phone absolutely bombed in the market.
When I read this line back in 2016, it felt like a gimmick audacious billionaires play to show boldness. But the more I thought about it, and especially after I got a better idea about how Bezos runs Amazon from The Everything Store, I started to understand the deep wisdom hidden in this simple punchline.
You see, when you fail the first time, it’s kind of a big deal. My first business was a total failure. I spent one year on an idea that went nowhere. I didn’t deal with it very well. But the truth is, if you are trying to do something new, you are bound to fail once in a while. The trick is not to stop there, and work towards even bigger failures.
Create a Quarterly Intellect Expansion Plan
Every new year we have a habit of setting resolutions. “I will reduce eating junk food this year. I will grow abs this year. I will run a marathon this year. I will study harder this year,” and on and on.
If you plan to set goals, you don’t have to wait till new year to set them. It gives gyms and similar services the opportunity to sell coupons.
This new year, instead of creating a random list of goals, I urge to you try something more creative and productive. I encourage you to create something I like to call a Quarterly Intellect Expansion Plan.
What I’m Learning
Giving Up on Dreams
All of us have dreams and hopes for our future. Some people dream of starting a family or living in another country, for instance. Other’s dreams are career focussed.
Our dreams form part of our identity, giving us purpose and direction, until reality gets in the way. Either our passion wanes with time or the obstacles to realising the dream becomes insurmountable.
Considering how our ambitions often become a core part of our sense of self, we find it unsettling to face the prospect of losing our dream. If we cannot achieve what we want to achieve, we will fail repeatedly if we don’t stop. So, it’s important to stop at some point.
Goal adjustment capacity becomes important here: the ability to disengage from fruitless goals and the ability to reengage in new, more productive goals. People who lack this capacity are inclined to bang their head against the wall when they’re confronted by an unobtainable goal. In the long term, they’re more prone to stress and chronic illness.
It’s a cliché to say that one door closing means another opening, but it’s true. By letting go of an impossible dream, you can free yourself to put time and effort into a potentially more rewarding project.
David Foster Wallace let go of his tennis-greatness dreams and became an acclaimed novelist and writer. Meanwhile, Roger Federer’s dreams of tennis greatness came true, but at the expense of his dream of becoming a professional footballer. Maryam Mirzakhani let go of her childhood dream of becoming a novelist but went on to be awarded the Fields Medal for mathematics in 2014—the first and only woman ever to receive the honour.
You might be agonising over whether you’re making a mistake, but there’s no good answer or formula for deciding whether to plough on or give up. It depends on the kind of person you are, and the kind of dream you are pursuing.
Starting a successful startup makes you rich and famous, so a lot of the people trying to start startups are doing it for those reasons, instead of an earnest interest in the problem for its own sake.
A genuine interest in something is the most powerful motivator of all. But apart from being a source of strength, it’s also a source of vulnerability. Caring constrains you. The earnest can’t easily reply in kind to mocking banter, or put on a cool facade as if it doesn’t bother them. They care too much. They are doomed to be the straight man.
That’s a real disadvantage in your teenage years, when mocking banter and nihil admirari often have the upper hand. But it becomes an advantage later.
We have no difficulty believing that people would be interested in history or maths or even old bus tickets for their own sake. So why can’t there be people interested in self-driving cars or social networks for their own sake? When you look at the question from this side, it seems obvious there would be. And isn’t it likely that having a deep interest in something would be a source of great energy and resilience?
When founders are both formidable and earnest, they’re as close to unstoppable as you get.
When we live life as an experiment, we are far more willing to take risks, to acknowledge failure, to learn and develop. That’s what experiments are all about: discovery and growth. There is no real failure in an experiment because it’s all data. If something doesn’t work, that’s simply data that leads to changing behaviour to see if something else does work.
When we’re experimenting, we’re willing to do all sorts of things we might be embarrassed to do otherwise. Like ask for something when we don’t particularly “deserve” it. Or say something in a conversation that might create a breakthrough (or might appear dumb). If it’s an experiment, then taking a risk is the win — whether it pans out or not.
And in those situations when it does pan out, we might just walk away with more than a good education.
👋 That’s All!
As always, please give me feedback. Did any of the stories resonate with you? Do you disagree with anything? What do you want more or less of? Any other suggestions? Please let me know in the comments, or simply reply to this email.