9 ideas for 2019

Here are some ideas I think worth pursuing and stressing in 2019 and why.

I've put them into 3 topical groups:

  • Reflection
    • boredom
    • consolidation
    • deep thinking
  • Positivity
    • definite optimism
    • course-correcting
    • commitment
    • positive-sum thinking
  • Listening
    • nuance
    • empathy

More ideas may present itself during the year.

Boredom

What do you do when you get bored? Do you get bored at all? Do you find yourself free of distraction long enough to even experience the elusive state of boredom?

We used to get bored. I got bored as a child all the time. I played with LEGO, made up stories, read books, made up more stories, learned to program,...

Boredom seems as essential to me as breathing.

Moreover, I'm convinced that we do what we do every day to escape boredom.

Why do we pursue goals? We don't have to. We don't have to do anything.

We could spend the whole day in bed, not moving an inch.

But who would want to? Could you imagine the boredom?

I'm convinced that some of the best inventions and creations have their roots in boredom. In the silence that leads to asking: "So, what am I going to do now?"

But do we have that silence anymore? Or do we fill every second with useless information because it's new, new, new?

Suggestions on how to be bored:

  • Don't do anything, be still and think.

Consolidation

Every day, oceans of information are produced and we all have the equivalent of a fire hose in our pockets and on our desks.

Current events sweep away yesterday like it never existed.

I believe too many people are overly focused on the new and current, at the expense of the timeless and important.

Consolidation means looking not only at the present, but also into the past, and integrating ideas in a useful manner.

It means expanding on our thoughts from yesterday, and from a week ago, and a month ago, and a year ago.

Consolidation means constantly integrating ideas into meaningful mental models that help us deal with the world more effectively.

Suggestions on how to consolidate information:

  • Review notes from a while back.
  • Re-read highlights from books read a while back.
  • Re-read your own writing.
  • Listen to past voice recordings.

Deep thinking

How often do you sit down with pen & paper, or a laptop, and try to get to the bottom of an idea?

How often do you read dense books from experts or philosophers from long ago?

How often do you think from your everyday actions to your core reason why you do anything?

That's what I mean by deep thinking. I believe more and more people are bombarded again and again with the same platitudes and same concepts and same intellectual positions, until they start to believe them without thoughtfully evaluating them themselves.

I believe we need more deep and independent thinkers, who form their own positions and concepts.

Suggestions on how to be a deeper thinker:

  • Explore ideas in speech and writing.
  • Digest dense & challenging materials.
  • Question reasoning and positions, both yours & other people's.

Definite optimism

A term from Peter Thiel's book Zero to One.

I believe it's too easy to be indefinite and indecisive and too easy to be a pessimistic or cynical.

Problem is, those positions and habits don't help anyone.

I believe not enough people put forward bold, positive, definite visions of the future that would inspire and provide meaning for others.

I would want to live in a world where I meet more people with such visions and where there is enough of them that they can turn the tide of now ever-present negativity.

Suggestions on how to be a definite optimist:

  • Imagine a specific future you'd like to live in detail (in writing).
  • Create concrete goals as milestones.
  • Take actions every day in relation to your goals and vision.

Course-correcting

With the overwhelm of choices available to any human living in the developed world, it's easy to over-think things. Over-analyze and thus become paralyzed.

Course-correcting is a simple idea - you set out to pursue your vision (your north star) and then at some point re-evaluate where you are in relation to your vision and if necessary, change your direction.

The important part is, you need to chart out a course and actually set out, to be able to course-correct. There is no course-correcting without setting out.

As long as your actions take you in the general direction of your vision, course-correcting is a better course of action than over-analyzing and trying to find the perfect path forward.

Suggestions on how to course-correct:

  • Make reversible decisions fast and gather feedback.
  • Take time every week or month to assess whether you're making progress.
  • Relentlessly set out despite fear and uncertainty.

Commitment

I think we're less and less used to committing to something for a long time. Social media, new projects, current events, ... those can erode our commitment by providing us with new shiny things.

Sticking with something long enough for it to bear fruit can be hard if one constantly hears about new trends and technologies on the horizon.

With so many possible courses of action, it's easy for doubt to creep up or simply find a justification for moving on.

Long-term commitment to a pursuit of a well-reasoned vision creates enough time for compound effects to kick in. Same is not true for a dozen pet projects that are abandoned after a few weeks.

Commitment seems to be the best long-term strategy and yet, many seem to think in terms of weeks or months at best and in terms of immediate profits.

Suggestions on how to be more committed:

  • Keep working on promising projects for months or years.
  • Commit to a goal, be flexible on the path to get there.
  • Allocate enough time to a project to move it forward periodically.

Positive-sum thinking

Life isn't zero-sum. Win-win situations aren't a fairy tale.

Each of us has something unique to contribute. In every interaction, we can create more magic and forward motion than there was before.

In business, we don't have to fight over scarce resources, we can create intellectual property out of thin air. That is, out of our minds.

Positive-sum thinking is a prerequisite to progress.

There are plenty resources for all of us to flourish.

Suggestions on how to think positive-sum:

  • Seek to create value, not capture value created by others.
  • Design win-win scenarios for others and for yourself.
  • Compete creatively, not destructively.

Nuance

There's too much categorization going on in public discourse, certainly on social media.

He's one of those, she's one of those...

He said this, so that must mean that...

She said that, so that means she's...

Once you put someone in a box, there's no space for thoughtful disagreement.

Nuance means shades of color, not black and white.

Nuance means understanding all facets of a position and understanding its logical and cultural foundation.

Nuance means understanding that real-world solutions often don't make everyone happy.

Too many people think automatically in black and white.

Suggestions on how to see nuance:

  • Develop your own opinions to understand the subjects involved.
  • Don't dismiss an opinion, without understanding its details.
  • Question any opinion that seems unquestionably correct.

Empathy

Empathy isn't only about feeling someone else's pain.

It's also about understanding those we don't agree with.

Many extend empathy only to their side of the argument, and not the other.

How can we engage constructively, if we don't understand the other side's reasons, values, and positions?

We need to use our empathy more constructively and strategically. To examine and grasp the feelings of not only the side we're on, but also those we disagree the most.

Suggestions on how to be more empathic:

  • Seek to understand other people's position before offering your own arguments.
  • Accept the possibility that you might be wrong.
  • Don't assume you're superior to others, no matter who they are.

That is a list of ideas that are at the top of my mind recently and going into 2019.

What ideas are at the top of your mind?

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