Perceived cost vs. actual cost

Seth Godin, in his interviews, always talks about his 40 billion dollar worth of t-shirt that reminds him of not being able to see the potential of the internet to build a company like Yahoo. If only he had seen what the founders of Yahoo had seen years ago, he would have been a billionaire by now. The t-shirt simply reminds him of the cost of not seeing the world as it is.

While we are good at calculating benefits, not many of us are good at calculating the (hidden) costs/price of things we enroll in our life. More often than not, we consider costs as simply the compromises we think we are making and not the compromises we are actually making.

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Success is inevitable only in hindsight

In my research methods class, I learned that sometimes even when the model/formula is fit it still may not be good at predicting and making inferences about the larger population. Success is also, like that.

If we had a formula for success, we could predict the outcomes of a person’s actions over time. Unfortunately, here the variables keep changing over time and hence, it’s hard to develop a success formula or model. If we had a universal formula for success assuming the dependent factors are going to be constant over time, all of us could have simply followed the formula and become successful in whatever we aim.

When people talk about their success stories, they are simply stories that can be cooked up in hindsight. Success can be as random as it can get.

Process vs. events

Anything that’s worth doing takes a long time. The outcomes that we are proud of are results of processes we followed over time. They are not events.
Therefore, success is a process and not an event. The process over the years gives birth to an outcome, which we mistakenly see it as an event. The truth is the efforts or the process we have been following over the years eventually catches up.
This theory applies to everything in life. The relationships we bothered to care about when things were rough pays off over time in the form of real friendships. The music lessons and practice sessions we attended when we didn’t feel like going and wanted to play video games instead, pays off over time making us good musicians. All the early morning runs we went for when the whole world was sleeping and when we didn’t feel like going, pays off in the long-term in the form of an athletic body. All the healthy food habits we cultivated by saying ’no’ to processed food and beverages over time pays off in the shape of a great body, great skin, and excellent health.
Processes eventually catch up. If we are unhappy with the outcome, chances are it’s a result of bad habits and behaviors over a long time.
What this means is that, if we want to become the kind of person we could be proud of five years from now, we need to start today and persist until we see the intended results. We often overestimate what we can achieve in a year and underestimate what we can accomplish in five.

The shopping mindset vs. the shipping mindset

An average American suburban household keeps redoing their home decor and ‘looks’ every year. Life hacks is a great way to entertain oneself. It makes us feel that we are productive while it is a just a means to entertain and keep us busy. Standing desks, fancy bookshelves, Fitbit, etc are all life hacks. There’s always one more thing to buy before we get to do our actual work. I call this the shopping mindset.
The question is when we have all the life hacks in place, that is when we have a fancy office table, an ergonomically designed chair from IKEA, and a great 4K monitor as our desktop computer, what are we going to do with it? Are we using the standing desk to create work that matters or simply whiling away our time doing social media grooming? Based on how we spend our time we can easily tell if we are doing something productive or merely keeping ourselves busy. And, life hacks/tips/tactics is a great way to hide from doing work that matters. It’s nothing but, resistance, as mentioned by Steven Pressfield in the War of Art.
The actual work happens when we stop shopping and star shipping things. Until we adopt the shipping mindset of constantly putting our work out in the world, the life hacks are pointless. Obsessing about life hacks is seeking for a guarantee. In reality, there is no guarantee because “the person who invented the ship also, invented the shipwreck.
So, how do we know when to stop shopping and get to shipping? One way to do that would be to constantly ask ourselves, what our work is for. If what we do aligns with what it is for, we can avoid the resistance (in this case, it’s shopping) and get back to shipping.

We’re surrounded by people who are busy getting their ducks in a row, waiting for just the right moment…Getting your ducks in a row is a fine thing to do. But deciding what you are you going to do with that duck is a far more important issue.

In a long distance race, everyone gets tired. The winner is the runner who figures out where to put the tired, figures out how to store it away until after the race is over. Sure, he’s tired. Everyone is. That’s not the point. The point is to run.

Same thing is true for shipping, I think. Everyone is afraid. Where do you put the fear?”

The paradox of our time is that the instincts that kept us safe in the day of the saber tooth tiger and General Motors are precisely the instincts that will turn us into road kill in a faster than fast internet-fueled era.

The resistance is waiting. Fight it. Ship.”

Safety zone vs. comfort zone

Seth Godin, in his book, Linchpin, talks about the safety zone and comfort zone. More often than not we tend to mistake the comfort zone for the safety zone. It used to true, however, that doesn’t mean it will always be true.

This makes a great case for why emotional labor is what we are being paid for in today’s workplace. Even though emotional labor makes us feel uncomfortable, it’s the safest way to still have a paid job and make a difference.

All creatures need a shortcut because we don’t have time to reevaluate the safety of everything. So, in order to succeed, particularly for human beings, we need to build a comfort zone that matches the safety zone. 
 
Now, things that we feel comfortable aren’t safe anymore as they are going to make us unemployed. Whereas the things that are going to make us feel uncomfortable are actually safe. So, the safest thing we can do is to take a risk or whatever that feels like a risk and the riskiest thing we can do is to play it safe. 
Now, we get paid for emotional labor. If what you did today wasn’t hard then you probably didn’t create enough value because you probably didn’t expose yourself to enough risk and fear. If you have a job where someone is telling you exactly what to do they can find someone cheaper than you to do it.
If you are standing still and the world is moving, you are actually losing ground.
I am sure none of us are ready to embrace this huge shift in work culture but, we can be prepared for it. In today’s world of work, since competence is overrated, do not expect for a map that gives you step-by-step instructions, instead embrace the compass to find the passion for creating something that connects and engages in new ways. 

The metric black hole in knowledge work

I was listening to the podcast on Deep Work by Cal Newport the other day when I got to know the concept of metric black hole in knowledge work.

The metric black hole is that there’s no established metric in knowledge work that measures adverse impacts of shallow work such as regularly checking emails and social media feeds and that weighs the benefits of deep work such as a constant focus on building something long-lasting. As a result, companies generally, tend to opt for and emphasize on the more convenient option, which is the shallow work.

This is completely contradictory to why organizations recruit knowledge workers in the first place. We recruit knowledge workers for the cognitive capital they bring in and by creating an environment where answering emails and attending back-to-back meetings is given more priority over deep work, we are not capitalizing on the rare and valuable skills of knowledge workers.

This could be a reason why millennials get bored and frustrated with their work in a short span of time and it need not be due to the sense of entitlement that they have as commonly accused.

So, what can we do about it? I would say, the employees must demand more productive environments if they think the existing conditions are not enabling them to perform at their fullest cognitive capability. They must explain the concept of deep work and also, suggest possible solutions that improve the working conditions. The employer must be receptive enough to understand the ideas and suggestions from the employees and be brave enough to make the change for a better working environment.

Psychological traits of work

Our work life goes way beyond mere livelihood. It can impact our identities for good and for worse. I wish I had known this earlier when I was in college but, it’s better late than never.

When we meet new people, we’re tempted to ask: ‘what do you do?’ We’re picking up on the idea that our identity is very linked to our daily tasks. But the way the question is answered tends to lock on to the practical externals of our jobs.

However, what’s more revealing, but more elusive, are the psychological requirements and consequences of jobs – what mindsets a job breeds, what doing the job requires of your inner life, how it expands us and (crucially) limits us.

Once we are aware of this fact, we can acknowledge it and process it properly to decide the actions we need to take to become a person we are proud of becoming.

Being in a particular psychological environment every day for years has a pretty significant impact on our habits of mind. It influences what we assume other people are like, it forms our view of life and gradually shapes who we are. The psychology inculcated by the work we do doesn’t stay at work. We carry it with us into the rest of our lives.

We find it much harder to notice what has happened in our case, because – of course – our outlook feels natural to us, though it is anything but. It may take an encounter with an alien (in the shape of someone from a very different field) to get us to notice.

Identifying the psychological traits of your work and personal life will guide you to take necessary actions to make yourself a more rounded individual.

We’re broadly aware that the way people learn to think at work can be traced in their domestic and social character.

Work can be very useful for people. The mentality fostered at work might be making up for aspects of the self that didn’t get properly developed before.

But work can narrow our characters too. When a particular range of issues and ways of thinking become entrenched, it means that others start to feel awkward and even threatening.

There’s a fundamental question we might ask ourselves: in what ways might my character has been shaped (for better or worse) by my work (just as it is important to grasp how one has been shaped by childhood)? There’s a poignant autobiographical question: if I’d done a different job, would I have been a different person? And the answer must be yes. Contained within other career paths are other plausible versions of oneself – which, if contemplated, reveal significant, but currently undeveloped, elements of one’s character. It gives rise to the most tricky of questions: where are those other bits of me?

Personally, I can say that I have become a much better person after I have taken up a pro bono project in a nonprofit organization. It has made me more generous and helped me focus on work for work’s sake and not for any extrinsic benefits such as pay, or popularity.
Being aware of the psychological traits of our jobs will make us more empathetic to people for who they are.

Keeping in mind how work shapes a person means we should be slower to blame other people for the way they are. Perhaps it is their job, not ‘them’ that has made them as they are – that has made them so nervous, angry, or boring. It’s the employment environment we should blame, not them. They might have been other people. Our identities are vulnerable to our jobs.