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Is Your Path a Staircase or a Circle? | Scott H Young

The circular path

The circular path

... when you're trying to improve something look like this:

  • You start with some ideas.
  • You get excited for a while (1-2 weeks).
  • Maybe you take some steps and do something to act on your ideas.
  • Your enthusiasm starts to fade and your projects get abandoned.
  • You go back to where you started.

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Is Your Path a Staircase or a Circle? | Scott H Young

Is Your Path a Staircase or a Circle? | Scott H Young

https://www.scotthyoung.com/blog/2020/04/05/circle-or-stairs/

scotthyoung.com

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Key Ideas

The circular path

... when you're trying to improve something look like this:

  • You start with some ideas.
  • You get excited for a while (1-2 weeks).
  • Maybe you take some steps and do something to act on your ideas.
  • Your enthusiasm starts to fade and your projects get abandoned.
  • You go back to where you started.

The staircase path

... when you're trying to improve something looks like this:

  • You get an idea.
  • You build a specific project around it (short-term).
  • Once you finish it, you move to the next idea and the project around it
  • Each project builds on the last, expanding options.

What defines the shape of your path

  • Focusing on one thing at a time until you finish it: if you focus on one project at a time until completion, you will make infinitely more progress than the person who does multiple projects at once.
  • Having the right method: doing something that’s outside your usual routine requires not just commitment, but new methods.
  • Actualization vs. possibility: the more you can adjust your life to the joys of doing and actualizing, over daydreaming and philosophizing, the more solid your life’s foundation will become.

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Loops and drills

Many loops aren’t straightforward repetitions. You may never write the same essay twice. The loop isn't writing a particular essay, but the overall process for writing essays.

In the same way, each thing you learn may have more than one loop. Drills are smaller loops to focus on smaller parts of the bigger loop.

Designing Your Practice Loop

Step one involves figuring out what your loops are. These are the activities you repeat over and over when learning something.

Next, analyze the loop for different parts to see whether you can make improvements. It will result in faster learning.

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Long-term flexible commitment

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Flexible commitment can help overcome this by bringing together two pr...

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  1. Stick to short commitments. Get good at this skill before going further.
  2. Understand your goal at different levels. The highest goal should be fairly abstract.
  3. Set a much more specific agenda of how I could fulfill this.
  4. Have periodic reviews where you can change your direction and incorporate new ideas. 
  5. Don't let your reviews interfere with the short-term process of committing.
The winding path: Goals and projects
Imagine your ambitions on two levels:
  1. A goal level, which is big-picture and abstract. It has just enough detail to inspire, but not so much that you're stuck pursuing things that don’t matter when conditions change. 
  2. Underneath that, have projects: these tend to be short-to-medium term efforts you think will help realize the larger goal.

The flexibility of the system comes once one leg of a short-term commitment has ended. This provides an opportunity for pivoting and redirecting.

The Commitment Muscle

Sticking through things longer builds resilience. But sticking through on a bad idea, project or effort can lose you years of your life.

The goal is to increase your ability to susta...

Quitting Points

They are pre-specified periods of time, effort or stress that you decide you’re willing to endure before you step back and re-evaluate.

Pick Your Quitting Point
  • Set shorter lengths of projects: set projects that are short enough that committing to them all the way is easy enough to do or break into chunks th bigger ones.
  • Set re-evaluation points for ongoing habits and goals.
  • Based on impact to other areas of your life. You can choose metrics like: time and how those things impact your life.
Goal-Setting

Any goal or project will usually have these basic qualities:

  • A general ambition or motivation. (e.g. learn French)
  • A specific target. (e.g.  speak fluently)
Goals To Start In The Middle

When a goal has high uncertainty as to what level is achievable to reach within a particular time-frame, it is better to set specific targets in the middle of the process.

Plan your goals with the variables you do have: overall direction, time-frame, level of effort and strategies.

Reasons To Postpone Goal-Setting
  • Uncertain goals should be set in the middle. This will enable you to set the correct challenge level to maximize effort.
  • Some research shows that for very complex tasks, goal-setting can hinder effectiveness. This is because complex tasks are cognitively demanding in the beginning and can be frustrating because you can't perform adequately. To add on more tasks can impair your performance.

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Progress can sometimes feel like endless staircases where you climb and climb, but can never see the end.

A personal mission statement allows you to look back and see how far you've climbed.

Putting Things Into Perspective

A personal mission statement reminds you where you're coming from and puts your life in perspective. When you feel frustrated, you can go back and read how much you've progressed over a specific time.

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Outcome Based Thinking

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Achieving goals doesn’t make you happy because achievements on their own hold no lasting emotional value. Only growth, fulfilment and passion has value.

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It happens when you convince yourself you can't go forward with a decision, because you haven't given it enough thought, done enough research or figured thi...

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It has the same root cause as all forms of procrastination. It is caused by the desire to avoid something unpleasant: you don’t want to get started, so you start searching for excuses to justify avoiding the unpleasantness.

And there really are fears, uncertainties or doubts, which make doing more research an attractive excuse.

Dealing with analysis paralysis

You have to manage 2 realities: 

  • Rationalization: Deal with your rationalization that you need more time to think, plan and research by preventing this excuse from working.
  • Underlying fear: Even if you convince yourself that you are engaging in procrastination and your paralysis is unhelpful, that may not stop you from doing it. Now you need to figure out how to get past it.

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"Our brains evolved to learn by doing things, not by hearing about them. This is one of the reasons that, for a lot of skills, it’s much better to spend about two thirds of your time testing yourself on it rather than absorbing it."

Telling Others About Your Pursuit

It can keep you accountable, but it can also lead to a false sense of completeness. One way to avoid sabotaging yourself is to state your goal as a commitment rather than progress towards the finished product.

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Speed and transfer

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Failing to Reach an Ideal

There are two problems you can encounter when you're trying to learn something.

  1. You have a clear understanding of what you'd like to do and how you're going to do it, but you're unable to implement the approach you've chosen. Slow things down so you can pay more attention to every aspect of the problem.
  2. Speed learning is effective when you're not sure what the ideal should be and need more information to work it out. A good example of speed leading to move closer to quality is in entrepreneurial fields. Many fail because they picked the wrong problem to solve and wasted too much time trying to solve it.
Going faster vs doing it right

The balance between going faster and doing it right depends on what you're trying to achieve.

  • Faster feedback means more information to find out your key challenges and possible solutions.
  • Slower helps you focus on a strategy you've chosen, allowing you to execute it correctly.