Human scale vs absolute scale

In some ways, this is a corollary of Einstein’s theory of relativity – everything is relative. While pretty well known, it can be hard to appreciate how this axiom applies literally everywhere in life – time, distance, size, wealth – you name it. 

A phone is a “small thing” for humans, while an airplane is big, and a planet is enormous. For an ant though, each of these is enormous. Similarly, for T-rex, a phone is tiny, and an airplane is moderate, and a planet is still enormous. Everything is relative, and scale depends on the frame of observation. 

The reason why thinking about this is important (or rather, can be important) – as humans, we may think that something is taking super long and hence get put off from doing it, when in reality it is taking however long it will take. We just think it’s taking long because of our perception of time. 

If something takes 1 day vs 1 year, that can be the deciding factor in whether or not we will pursue it. But on cosmic scales, 1 day vs 1 year is almost the same compared to, say, a billion years. 

If you remove your dependence on human scales of “long” or “short” durations of time from the equation, it gets easy to appreciate how all growth / change is just a summation of actions over time. 

As an oversimplification, 

  • Thing_Level0 + 6months = Thing_Level1
  • Thing_Level1 + 10months = Thing_Level2
  • And so on

If you think 6months is long, then fuck you, that’s your problem, don’t blame the task. The task at hand is not “impossible” or anything – you just need to put in the time.

Living for the future vs in the future

This one is maybe more relevant for expats such as myself. My schedule, especially because of working for a company like Tesla, was mostly just working for most of the week, with a note to myself that this schedule was temporary. And that the future would be better, with better focus on other things in life – health, personal relationships, socializing, relaxing, etc. 

But over more recent months, it has been clear to me that if I work hard now and expect for things to change in the future, nothing will happen. I will just keep pushing out the date of the future that I expect to be perfect. 
Some of my recent decisions (or decisions in the making) have been to get away from always thinking the ‘future will be better’ and instead, making that future my present. Can’t keep living for the future – that’s an ever escaping panacea for denial.

Speed of growth

Another borrowed idea, this time from a Stanford professor, John Ousterhout. Your speed trumps your initial starting point. Aptitude trumps experience. Speed of growth is more important than the starting point. 

If you learn fast enough, you’ll be superior compared to someone who relies mostly on their initial starting point plus minor incremental growth. 

Personally, I find this quite empowering; makes me think that I can do and learn anything as long as I have a good pace of learning/application. 

Want to switch careers, fields, or start a new career altogether? No problem. Just need to start and keep a good pace. Pretty soon you’ll get better than a previous veteran who is not keeping pace. 

Two variables – slope and time. Even if you have a good slope (i.e., rate of learning), you still need to give it time. Another corollary of why compounding over time is a serious force of growth.

Discipline and habit

Discipline and habit go hand in hand. Discipline creates habit, habit breeds discipline. And in all cases, discipline trumps motivation. Motivation is seasonal, whereas discipline is weather-proof. Speaking of superpowers for humans, they are as good as they get. 

Much better to do something in a predictable way for 1 hr daily (discipline) instead of watching a motivation video on the weekend and spending 7 hrs on a Saturday (motivation).

Compound interest

I have read this in multiple ways in multiple contexts – compound interest is one of the greatest forces of growth in nature. This applies everywhere – personal life, professional relationships, stock equity, skills, nature – everything is an investment of resources over time. 

The application of compound interest is more straightforward in the world of finance and stocks. But the same principle – investment of resources over time – applies everywhere in nature. 

In essence, your ending point on day one becomes your starting point for day two, and so on. 

Hindsight is 20/20. In some way, I have lived the benefits of compound interest without ever realizing them while growing up. For me, one way this happened while growing up was via academics – studying hard for academics may not have made me an expert in any subject I studied, but it helped develop my work ethic. By the end of it, it was super easy for me to study and/or work for long hours daily over long periods of time, which may be a challenge for someone else.  

Applies to learning something new as well – spaced repetition is superior to last minute cramming. It’s an investment over time. Have ten cumulative hours to learn to play the guitar? Spread them over two months instead of one day for better results. It’s literally that mechanical. Almost makes it a game. Investment of the same amount of resources (e.g., time) is more effective over longer periods of time versus over short periods of time.