10 Lessons From the Smartest Minds In The World | Kat Cole, Noreena Hertz, Adam Grant, Dr. Z, Seth Godin, and others on The Knowledge Project with Shane Parrish

Key Takeaways

  • Loneliness is not only about wanting to feel connected with friends and family, it is also about wanting to feel connected with your government, your employer
    • The more individualistic the society is, the lonelier it’s likely to be (neo-liberal capitalist mindset)
  • Identity is not about what you believe, it’s about what you value (generosity, excellence, integrity, freedom, etc.)
  • When you have a belief, you have two options: fall victim to an overconfidence cycle or subject it to a rethinking cycle
  • Dr. Z doesn’t want to feel safe, he wants to feel scared but comfortable because all the risks are being dealt with
    • Not being able to carry worries is a big leadership weakness
  • 21 hours a week is the tipping point where gaming can get in the way of physical or mental health
    • Video games before bed can help if you are struggling with negative thoughts or flashbacks
    • Playing a game before bed will hijack the attention and visual center (Tetris is the golden game in clinical trials for studying these kinds of effects)
  • All human behavior is induced by the desire to escape discomfort; everything we do, we do for this reason
    • The first step to becoming indistractable is to claim the responsibility for the uncomfortable sensations by mastering the internal triggers
  • A great relationship is one where if you ask each person independently who benefits more from the relationship, they would each say “Well, I do.”

Intro

  • In the last episode of 2021, The Knowledge Project decided to edit a compilation of the best sections of the most downloaded and acclaimed episodes they released in 2021. Get ready for a medley of wisdom about sparking creativity, avoiding distraction, dealing with loneliness, how video games sharpen important life skills, and much more
  • Guests on this episode:
  • Host – Shane Parrish (@ShaneAParrish)

Kat Cole and the Power of Possible

  • “We are all just unfinished magic and we are more likely to be the fullest extent of our magic if other people see us that way first.”Kat Cole
    • When you are looked at as your potential, you feel the need and desire to grow into that potential
    • Naturally, some people will let us down (single-digit tax), but there is more value in believing in people than forfeiting because of a small percentage
  • Smiling at random people on the street: 95% of people will smile back, but 5% that will not respond or even frown
    • We forfeit because of that 5%
    • 5% of trying something only ten times feels like a heavy tax, but 5% of smiling a thousand times in the grand scheme of things makes it worthwhile
  • Positive intent about chicken wings
    • Kat worked as a waitress at Hooters
    • Every Friday, a customer would order 50 chicken wings for him and his friends
    • After eating the entire plate, he would complain that 10 chicken wings were missing and ask for a discount
    • Because it happened every time, it was obvious that it was a scheme
    • Instead of fighting with the customers (as some managers and servers did), Kat would bring them 10 more chicken wings on her employee discount before they finished eating
    • Everyone laughed because she beat the scheming customer at his own game
    • “It was like customer judo, using his energy to play the game, without arguing or fighting.” – Kat Cole
    • He never complained again and gave her a big tip

Chris Bosh on What Makes Championship Teams Different

  • What sets the championship teams apart?
    • The ethos of the team and the organization
    • The day to day work and knowing that you need to win
    • The attitude of embracing tough situations
  • Every team goes through a moment where they want to quit
    • The biggest difference is in not quitting and doing your job
    • “When the tough get going, go and get tough.”Chris Bosh
    • Chris used to hate cliches, now he loves them
  • There can be no cracks between players, coaches, and owners or the media gets in and works their magic
    • It is a focused effort from everyone involved with the organization
    • The wives and girlfriends don’t get enough credit
    • They hold down the home when the players are on the road (they get the kids together to watch the game)
    • They are the rock that takes all the b******t that they bring back
  • What makes an effective coach?
    • Being prepared and having a game plan
    • Ready to deviate if the game plan is not working
    • Having the ability to connect with the team and communicate with each member (including the staff)
    • There is that fine balance of sticking with what you said you were gonna do and changing it when it’s not working
    • The coach can only say the right things to get the right response, the rest is on the players
  • Is there a difference between losing and being beaten?
    • It’s all the same for Chris, a loss is a loss
    • There is nothing wrong with losing
    • It doesn’t necessarily speak to your character or your approach

Noreena Hertz About the Perils of Loneliness

  • “There is probably nothing more lonely than being in a bad relationship or a bad marriage.”Noreena Hertz
  • Loneliness is not only about wanting to feel connected with friends and family
    • It is also about wanting to feel connected to your government, your employer
    • For Noreena, loneliness is disconnection on an existential level
  • Does technology make us feel lonely or do we use technology because we feel lonely?
    • The Welfare Effects of Social Media” – a landmark study conducted by researchers at Stanford University
    • Total of 3000 participants (1500 were in the control group and the other 1500 deactivated their Facebook accounts)
    • The group who went off Facebook for two months were significantly less lonely and happier 
    • They actually spent more time doing things in person with friends and family
    • Other subsequent studies only supported this. Social media makes people feel more lonely
  • Noreena is optimistic about the future of technology like social robots and virtual assistants
    • On an individual level, social robots can help alleviate our loneliness
    • But what does this mean for society at large?
    • We will get used to having relationships with “servants” who do what we instruct them to do
    • Abandoning our real-world relationships will have alarming consequences
  • Shame in admitting that you are lonely
    • There is a stigma in admitting you are lonely because the market for popularity has never been more visible
    • You scroll on your feed, and everyone looks like they have more friends than you, more fun, and is more popular
    • There is something shameful about feeling like no one wants to be your friend
    • Positive outcome about the covid experience – we are talking much more about loneliness
    • The truth is everyone is lonely: old, young, rich, poor, male, female, etc.
    • The more individualistic the society is, the lonelier it’s likely to be (neo-liberal capitalist mindset)
    • “More individualism, more loneliness, more neoliberalism, more loneliness.”Noreena Hertz
    • We should move to a system where we invest in friendships as much as we invest in our blood relationships

Adam Grant and How to Rethink Ideas

  • Why are people hesitant to rethink things?
    • It makes the world feel much more unpredictable
      • If my views aren’t fixed, “who am I?”
      • How do “I” navigate this really confusing and turbulent world?
    • It makes us feel like we are not the experts
      • And a lot of us take pride in our knowledge
  • Identity is not about what you believe, it’s about what you value
    • Adam’s highest values are generosity, excellence, integrity, and freedom
  • When you have a belief, you have two options:
    • Fall victim to an overconfidence cycle
    • Subject it to a rethinking cycle
  • The rethinking cycle starts with intellectual humility, knowing what you don’t know despite your expertise in a given topic
    • Being aware of your ignorance leads you to doubt your convictions
    • It makes you curious about what you don’t know and that opens your mind to new discoveries
    • “We need to give ourselves permission to enter rethinking cycles.”Adam Grant
  • How do you start re-thinking your convictions and how do you know when it’s time to enter a rethinking cycle?
    • It’s basically outcome over ego
    • Wrap your sense of identity or ego in the outcome
    • “I’m entitled to my opinion” is not a good way to end a conversation
    • “If you decide to speak out, you have a responsibility to be open to changing your mind in the face of better logic or stronger data.”Adam Grant

Dr. Z Shares Practical Decision-Making Strategies

  • “The only signature that matters there for most of these missions is mine. Because I take accountability, but I will be a fool to not listen to others.”Dr. Z
  • To make a well-informed decision, Dr. Z assembles a group of diverse leaders who look at the problem from different perspectives
    • All the people are experts in their respective field
    • Years of work come together to make a decision to launch a spacecraft
    • In many cases, when he makes that kind of a decision, he is not alone
    • If anything goes wrong, and he is in a congressional hearing because an accident happened, he can explain how he made that decision and how it made sense
  • You will make mistakes; NASA didn’t make it to where it is by playing it safe
    • Rocket science is not low risk
    • He doesn’t want to feel safe, he wants to feel scared but comfortable because all the risks are being dealt with
    • Not being able to carry worries is a big leadership weakness
    • If a leader can’t handle worries, it will make the whole organization behave in a way that hides potential risks

Jane McGonigal on How Video Games Teach Real-Life Skills

  • Some video games are designed to frustrate you and you have to adapt by learning new rules and interfaces
    • You get better at learning new things; dealing with frustrating systems and adapting
    • The result is that you get better and you build confidence in your ability to get better
    • Every game does this to some extent, it’s not just about escapism or pastime
    • Any game that’s designed to be challenging is going to the benefit of keeping the brain healthy and active
  • 21 hours a week is the tipping point where gaming can get in the way of physical or mental health
  • “Games are a great way to tell each other what we’re good at, what we want to be appreciated for, and what we value in each other.”Jane McGonigal
  • If you want your children to retain what they study, have them play video games first, and do their homework before they go to sleep
    • When you go to sleep, your brain will be fixated on the most important problem it was recently trying to solve
    • Usually, playing video games right before bed is a bad idea, unless you are having flashbacks of a traumatic event or you can’t get a bad experience out of your mind
    • Playing a game before bed will hijack the attention and visual center (Tetris is the golden game in clinical trials for studying these kinds of effects)
    • Tetris is the best option because it hijacks your brain; you close your eyes and see the falling Tetris blocks
    • Any game that can focus your attention will help with reducing negative thoughts, nightmares, and flashbacks before falling asleep

Nir Eyal Busting the Distraction Myth

  • Daddy-daughter time plan
    • Nir and his daughter got an activity book to get to know each other
    • One of the questions in the book was about a choice of a superhero power
    • Nir doesn’t remember his daughter’s answer because he had to check his phone
    • This happened on multiple occasions, and not only with his daughter; it happened when he made a choice to exercise, eat right, work on various projects, etc.
    • He got a flip phone with no apps and no internet connection, and still got distracted
    • The leading cause of distraction are internal triggers: boredom, uncertainty, fatigue, anxiety
  • Time management requires pain management
    • “Procrastination is the inability to deal with emotional discomfort.” Nir Eyal
    • All human behavior is induced by the desire to escape discomfort; everything we do, we do for this reason
    • Craving, desire, wanting, lusting, etc., these sensations are themselves psychologically destabilizing, they feel bad
    • The brain gets us to act by creating discomfort – homeostatic response
    • Many commercial solutions are offered for our emotional discomfort that we seek to escape
  • The first step to becoming indistractable is to claim the responsibility for the uncomfortable sensations by mastering the internal triggers
    • You can’t control your feelings any more than you can control your urge to sneeze but you can control your response
    • The goal is to deal with the discomfort in a healthy way that moves us forward
    • People have always been distracted, it’s not something that came with the iPhone or Facebook
    • Do not run away from discomfort, harness it to lead you towards traction (the opposite of distraction)
  • “If you plan to spend your time playing a video game, or scrolling social media, there is nothing wrong with it as long as it’s done on your schedule and not the tech companies.”Nir Eyal
    • The time you plan to waste is not wasted time, any distraction can be turned into traction by making time for it in your day

Seth Godin on How to Be More Creative

  • “Creativity is a choice, not a bolt of lighting from somewhere else.”Seth Godin
  • Everyone has been creative at least once in their life
  • What does it mean to be creative more than once?
    • Extending yourself with empathy to the person you are seeking to serve
    • Extending via space and time, into the future, announcing something that might or might not work
    • If you exert the emotional labor to do those two things, sometimes you will have a successful creative outcome (that is a choice)
  • What does it mean to be a professional?
    • Doing what you love is for amateurs, and loving what you do is for professionals
    • Professionals make a promise and they keep the promise whether or not they feel like it
    • Amateurs get to be authentic; they show up when they want to and make what they want to make
    • Being an amateur is great for some things, but if you want to be a professional, you need to:
      • Understand the state of the art
      • Raise the bar
      • Know what change you seek to make
  • Never miss a deadline and never go over budget
    • The industries that Seth works in want to work with professionals
    • They don’t tolerate missing deadlines, throwing tantrums, and showing up late
  • Meeting spec (doing the minimum)
    • Quality is not luxury, expensive, etc. it’s just one thing – it meets spec
    • Under an electron microscope, a Lexus (the highest quality car there is) is filled with defects, but they are defects that are within spec
    • In other words, they don’t matter
    • Lexus was never supposed to be perfect, it simply met spec (a standard deviation better than a Mercedes)
    • The hard work was in defining the spec that will get you to the next step

Angela Duckworth and Different Mindsets for Life Challenges

  • One of the most important lessons you can learn in life: You can intentionally change your situation
    • Your situation is not always fixed or set
    • People have agency over their behavior
    • You can use different mental strategies (self-talk, how you frame things, etc.), but you can also change your actual situation; e.g. when you study, put your phone in another room, or choose a quiet place to study
  • You cannot change that you are born into a certain family, but you can always change how you react to it
    • It’s not 100%, but you have some control over your reaction
    • People develop confidence when they have struggled to overcome hardships and come out victorious
    • “Whether you’re 50 or 5, it’s good to have somebody who is a little older and wiser than you who is helping you figure out the next challenge.”Angela Duckworth

Jim Collins on How to Have Better Relationships in 2022

  • Two core values in Jim’s life are curiosity and relationships
  • Jim Collins attributes his success to his mentor Bill Lazier
  • Bill believed that there are two kinds of people:
    • Those who look at life as a series of transactions and those who look at it as a chance to build relationships
  • The only way to have a really great life is on the relationship side
    • In the end, it’s all about relationships and doing things you love with people you love
  • What makes for a great relationship?
    • A great relationship is one where if you ask each person independently who benefits more from the relationship, they would each say “Well, I do.”
    • This is because both people are putting into the relationship not for what they’re going to get from it, but for what they can give to it
    • Because both sides are focused on giving, each side feels like a beneficiary
  • Other lessons he learned from Bill:
    • Some people are genuinely not trustworthy, it’s just the cost of living
    • You need to decide on your “opening bid” when you are establishing a relationship
    • Is your opening bid to assume trust and grant them the full benefits of that or is your opening bid to not trust anyone until they earn it?
    • For Bill, there is far more upside in the opening bid of trust, and far more downside in an opening bid of mistrust
    • It all comes down to people, the very best people will respond to the bid of trust
    • That is what the best people will be attracted to, as opposed to an opening bid of mistrust
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