Algorithms for living, compass vs maps, information diet and more...

Hey everyone,

Last week, I spent a lot of time reading saved articles in my Instapaper and Pocket queues and then over the weekend, went for stargazing and saw Milky Way (for the first time in my life!), Jupiter, Saturn, few nebulae, star clusters etc. A combination of this large information intake and then an introduction to many perspectives while staring at infinity has left my brain a bit foggy at the moment. I think this processing mode will continue for a couple of days. Writing down the thoughts should bring some clarity, so follow me on Twitter for thoughts trail and then I may write a couple of posts here in near future. For now, let’s jump on some of the smartest things that I came across or which re-surfaced (thanks to Readwise) last week.

Photo by James Wainscoat on Unsplash

PS. I use both Instapaper and Pocket as read-it-later services. Pocket is for all tech (read: work/career) related articles while Instapaper is for everything else. This bifurcation of content helps me in picking up for reading whatever I am feeling like. Readwise is a must-have if you read online (strongly recommended!)


How to stop checking numbers and focus on work?

When you are a small company, startup or starting a new side project, it is all but natural to keep checking on Google Analytics, Substack, Twitter, WordPress metrics aka how many people visited the website, total views, new users vs returning users etc. This is obviously contrary to oft-repeated advice on just focusing on the work, keep showing up and customers will eventually find you. Easier said than done, though. On this context, I found this article presenting a more empathetic view and some actionable suggestions for deep work. Following are few excerpts, read on if this interests you:

In the beginning, the dissonance between the scale of your aspirations and the reality of your days will riddle you with anxiety. 

Scott Belsky coined the term insecurity work to describe work that does not move the ball forward, but is quick enough that you can do it multiple times a day without realizing.

Joseph Campbell’s words ring so true here: “If you can see your path laid out in front of you step by step, you know it's not your path. Your own path you make with every step you take. That's why it's your path.”

Source: Check your pulse #49


Computing Algorithms - for living well!

One of the fascinating reads of the year for me is the following book:

The premise is as follows: many decision-making challenges, solving problems, choosing among options etc. in our daily lives are ‘similar’ to the challenges which scientists, engineers and programmers came across while creating computers or developing software - and have already solved those problems. Now this may sound preposterous but have a look at following suggestions from the book and read on to find out more. No computing background is required for the reading.

Hiring: Look at the first 37% of the applicants, choosing none, then be ready to leap for anyone better than all those you’ve seen so far

Indecisive about dining out in a known place or explore something new: Explore when you will have time to use the resulting knowledge, exploit when you’re ready to cash in

Cleaning your wardrobe/office desk: Sorting something that you will never search is a complete waste; searching something you never sorted is merely inefficient.

Source: Algorithms to live by


Compass 🧭 over maps 📌

Compass vs maps, literal vs esoteric, footsteps vs direction, strategy vs tacts - is a larger debate in various domains on life, work and growth in general. On this context, I liked the following excerpt from Whiplash:

In an increasingly unpredictable world moving ever more quickly, a detailed map may lead you deep into the woods at an unnecessarily high cost. A good compass, though, will always take you where you need to go. It doesn’t mean that you should start your journey without any idea where you’re going. What it does mean is understanding that while the path to your goal may not be straight, you’ll finish faster and more efficiently than you would have if you had trudged along a preplanned route.

Source: Whiplash


Laws of success

Excerpts from an excellent review of ‘The Formula: the universal laws of success’ by David Laing:

  1. Performance drives success, but when performance can’t be measured, networks drive success.

  2. Performance is bounded, but success is unbounded.

  3. Previous success x fitness = future success.

  4. While team success requires diversity and balance, a single individual will receive credit for the group’s achievements.

  5. With persistence, success can come at any time.

Source: David Laing’s book review


Information diet

  • How cities will be built in future?

  • Why some products and services are getting cheaper while others (healthcare, legal etc.) are still expensive?

  • Why the internet has really started in 2020?

  • What is the real purpose of technology?

If the above questions or claims pique your interest, I’d highly recommend listening to this podcast. Balaji S. Srinivasan was the top author on Quora, teacher of the most popular course on Coursera, ex-CTO of Coinbase and generally someone who you can always refer to get an intellectual, technological and a rational view around various issues. My favourite notes from the podcast are around the idea of ‘Information diet’:

  1. Sugar leads to the diabetes of the body

  2. The internet with its never-ending content leads to the diabetes of the brain

  3. While glucose monitors help manage our food diet, we don’t have a tool to monitor our information diet

  4. Can such a tool be built? For now what we can do: keep a strict eye on what you are consuming!

Source: David Perell’s podcast


Reading, Convexity of expertise and OODA

Loved this quote on the pursuit of expertise by Byrne Hobart and how important ‘reading’ is to this entire quest:

Nothing in life demonstrates the same level of convexity as expertise. It really never ceases to astonish. Pick a topic, read a book, and you know something. Pick a topic, read every book ever published on it, and you’ll find yourself inside the OODA loop: you’ll start reading a chapter, know which study the author is citing, quickly figure out that the author either didn’t read or is choosing to ignore a contradictory study, and zip right through.

PS. Read this as an introduction to OODA.


On better decision making

With the (a) onslaught of so many choices in online and offline worlds and (b) changes and uncertainties all around, the quest to get better at decision making is becoming more and more important. What was previously a domain of certain investment bankers and hedge fund managers is an essential skill for everyone. Not surprising then, there has been an explosion of articles, books and online advice on the subject. I liked the following suggestion from the statistical and psychological aspects:

When making decisions, instead of asking ourselves which option will give us the best results, we should be asking which option will give us good-enough results under the widest range of future states of the world….. The term used to describe this approach to decision-making is satisficing. And satisficing with an eye toward a radically uncertain future might be called robust satisficing.

Barry Schwarts

Source: Why efficiency is dangerous and slowing down makes life better


I hope you find this intellectually stimulating and hopefully also helpful in your daily work/life. If you have any feedback on improving this curation or have articles, quotes, book excerpts to share, please feel free to say Hi or send me a link here. Wish you a successful week ahead.

Until next week,
Ali