Problem Solving


Read a good book, and you’ll start thinking about things in a different way.

Sometimes that different pattern of thinking will result in some deliberate plans of action. Other times, they will merely adjust your thinking down a new direction you might not have considered before.

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Problem Solving

Good Books Limit Bad Choices

It’s often the things you don’t do after reading a book that justify the investment cost. If a book steers you away from bad strategies which won’t work, that alone can make it worth reading.

Read enough books about investing and you learn enough to steer away from some clearly bad habits on investing.

A book you never explicitly try to implement can still add value. Perhaps not life-changing, but is has enough value to justify the relatively low cost invested in them.

Most books won’t change your life. But then again, you don’t need a life-changing amount of money and time to consume them. If you pick good books, read them well, and think deeply about their implications, that’s enough to earn back their price tag (both in terms of money and hours spent).

Reading More Advice than You Actually Use

You ought to read a ton of books, and only implement a fraction of the ideas, depending on what you have time for.

  • Reading books is quite cheap. Kindle editions of popular books cost less than a nice meal. Libraries and borrowing books means you often don’t even need to pay that. Even the time spent reading a book is a fairly low investment. 
  • Implementing ideas, in contrast, is often quite expensive. Implementing just one idea from a book can take more time, money, or effort than reading the book itself. Implementing all the ideas from a single book might take years.

Customers are often pushed towards a particular product due to marketers amplifying the FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) state.

  1. They claim the product is backwards compatible, or is fully compatible with a variety of hardware, implying that the competitor's product isn’t.
  2. They claim that their product requires minimal training of employees.
  3. They try to sell the worth of the product by claiming that millions of customers use it.
  4. They try to hasten the decision by giving limited time discount offers.
  5. They play the ‘limited stocks’ game or suggest how others have benefited from the same.

Various tech companies use fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) to control customer behaviour. They plant fake news, confusing press releases and benchmark tests to influence the decisions of prospective customers.

Example: Announcing ‘vaporware’ products, something that isn’t even in existence, just to harm the sales of the existing products of competitors.

Oscar Munoz

“Uncertainty always creates doubt and doubt creates fear.”

Spread intentionally and unintentionally, FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) techniques are quite common. Some of the most utilized techniques to create or amplify FUD among people are:

  1. Making negative statements about a rival.
  2. Pushing the narrative on possible negative results, while exaggerating the impact or likelihood of the same.
  3. Amplifying people's existing negative emotions.
  4. Confusing them through lots of information.
  5. Questioning their beliefs.
  6. Attacking their source of information.

Instilling fear, uncertainty and doubt in the minds of people isn’t new. Governments and political groups have been fearmongering for centuries.

Most mainstream media carries a certain narrative or agenda in their news reporting, promoting the feelings of FUD in readers in order to coax them into buying the publication, clicking the article link, or simply believing the propaganda.

FUD: Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt
  • FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) is a collection of feelings and emotions that influence our thinking.
  • It was coined by Gene Amdahl, who worked at IBM and later founded his own company.
  • Business, media, politics and even some religions use FUD intentionally, as they understand its power and how vulnerable people are to it.
  • Marketers and salespeople often exploit these behaviour patterns in people and manipulate them by planting doubts and uncertainties about a competing product or service in their minds.
  1. Be clear and objective about your product or service and what the features are.
  2. Answer common questions through a collection of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).
  3. Offer demos so that customers can themselves make up their minds about your service or product.
  4. Having customer testimonials and a good website also helps in reducing FUD, also known as the halo effect.

FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) techniques use various belief patterns and cognitive biases already present in people.

  1. Authority Bias: People are already conditioned to believe authority figures.
  2. Bandwagon Effect: People often do what others are doing.
  3. Slippery Slope Argument: Suggesting that a certain action can set off extreme results, pushing us towards the wrong path.
  4. Appeal To Emotions: Most manipulators appeal to our fears, exploiting our emotions for their gain.
  5. Reverse Psychology: Indirectly coaxing people to do the opposite.

We first need to identify the various fears, uncertainties and doubts (FUD) we have in ourselves, trying to resolve them when we know what they are and from where they are coming from.

One can deploy the principle of cui bono, asking yourself ‘who benefits?’ from this FUD being created in you. Likewise, various cognitive biases can be dissected.

Keep in mind that people often believe what they hear, and only object towards something wrong if they have full knowledge of the same and can therefore identify the error.

Reasons for writing a book summary
  • Writing a book summary helps you remember what you read months, or even years, after reading.
  • It helps you connect main concepts from other books, giving you a deeper level of understanding.
  • Lastly, it helps you improve your own writing.

Writing a book summary consists of three steps.

  1. Take notes while you read.
  2. Write the main takeaways in your own words.
  3. Continue to summarise over time (progressive summarization.)

Use progressive summarization to distil the ideas: Summarise your notes, then summarise that summary, then summarise that summary.

There are five layers to progressive summarization.

  1. The book's notes and highlights are unedited and lack context.
  2. Solve the context problem by summarising the book in your own words.
  3. Highlight the key takeaways that are not context-specific.
  4. Bold small instructions that tell you what to do.
  5. Remix and combine ideas to create content. It is best done over time.
  • If you're reading a print or hardcover book, write your notes and highlights into a word processor or note-taking app.
  • If you're reading a Kindle book, add your notes, then export your notes and highlights. Copy them into a preferred word processor or note-taking app. Remove all the irrelevant markings, like "Read more at location {NUMBER]", "Add a note".
  • Now, rewrite each highlight in your own words.
  • If you highlighted chapter headings, change them into subheadings.
  • If you read a printed book, highlight important quotes, ideas, or questions. Write the page number on the first blank page.
  • If you're reading a Kindle book, use Kindle's "notes" and "highlights" to collect important takeaways.
  • Highlight the book's chapter headings as you're reading. For books, where each chapter builds on the last, it will be easier to get an overview of your notes and highlights.

If you cannot find a learning buddy ( a partner that is willing to commit to only speaking in a foreign language with you), hire a tutor.

You can also opt for language exchange with people who want to learn your language.

Open a translating tool, type what you want to say, translate to the language you want to speak, try saying it to the other person.

If they understand you and say something you don't understand, ask them to write it down and use Google to translate it. It could be very awkward at first, but don't stress yourself too much about that.

  • Don't wait too long before you start practicing. Most people find it uncomfortable to speak a language poorly and avoid it. Don't think you will wait until you're "ready".
  • Going from zero to 100% will require some preparation. 25 - 50 hours are usually enough for a European language, 100 hours for harder Asian languages.
The Best Strategy For Learning A New Language
  • Travel to a country that speaks the language.
  • Get a phrasebook and learn a few basic expressions.
  • Commit to only speaking in that language from the very beginning.
  • Use a dictionary to translate when you feel stuck.
  • Hire a local tutor.

If you want to do some practice before traveling to a country for a 100% immersion, do about 50% conversation practice and 50% with some beginner learning resource.

The non-speaking parts of learning are to supplement the conversation practice, not to be in place of it.

Although it is scary and hard, immersive practice is by far the most effective. When the person you're speaking with sees that you don't understand, they will automatically try to simplify what they communicate.

If you don't want to speak yet, you can also try reading or watching movies, until you have a high listening comprehension.

You can choose a friend who also wants to learn the language. Agree to talk in your language of choice at least once per day or whenever you talk to each other.

Your friend does not have to be a native speaker. But, 10% of your time should be speaking with an advanced or native speaker. Use a dictionary or other tools when you feel the need.

This strategy of learning a new language only works if you speak in the language. If you are only able to spend 50% of your learning time in conversations, invest your time on the important aspects of the language that you can't focus on enough. It will be different for each language.

For instance, in Spanish, the conjugation system can be a bit overwhelming. Grammar exercise books might be useful. In Chinese, grammar is not so much the issue as pronunciation.

When you run out of ideas on how to finish your project or you need a different perspective for a fresh interpretation of the project, do not hesitate to ask other people for help.

Collaborating with other people can make you feel motivated on finishing a goal.

If you're feeling stuck on a section of your report or just feeling tired in general, it's most likely that your body is not getting enough exercise.

Exercising raises your heart rate and increases blood flow to the brain. It also increases your cognition - which would be greatly beneficial to you and your task. It doesn't have to be a hard exercise, you could take a 15 minute walk outside just to refresh your mind and let yourself take a breather.

When you feel overwhelmed, start with small steps

When you feel that you are unable to do even a menial task, your motivation is your biggest friend.

When a huge project is given to you and it feels overwhelming, give yourself some time to examine the project and break it down to bite-sized piece that you can take on. At the end of the day, you are still able to finish tasks and have achieved something.

We tend to feel unconfident whenever we are given a huge project but we are unable to provide excellent results the first time around.

Try to be kinder to yourself during this time and remember that perfection cannot be achieved in one try, not every project is flawless. The important thing to remember is to not let yourself succumb to fear that will prevent you from doing anything.

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