Friday, December 28, 2018

Your Unhappiness is Due to Your Expectations

Your unhappiness is due to your expectations

I was having a meal with a friend and there were a couple kids lightly horsing around at the table next to use. Which brought us to a conversation.

"Do you think kids being loud at restaurants is annoying?"

I reply "no it doesn't really bother me, kids are kids and I'm sure the parents are trying their best to quiet their crying baby"

He replies "yea I'm not annoyed either, but I know some people who would be so irritated"

So I think "hmm well it depends, if you were on a date with your wife and the table next to you had a screaming baby then you would be annoyed because it would ruin the experience"

"Oh right" he agrees in that case it makes sense. Maybe at a nice restaurant it'd be different, but at a family it would be expected.

And that conversation triggered a memory of what Tony Robbins had said: we are unhappy when our expectations do not match reality.

If we expect our body to be in good shape but we have a beer gut then we are sad. But maybe don't expect to have low body fat because we love food and "want to live a little" and instead feel lucky to have been promoted at work. Then we are ecstatic.

In our restaurant discussion, the reason we are unhappy on our date at the nice restaurant with the screaming baby is because we didn't expect that. At the family restaurant we would have expected a noise and so our expectations would match reality.

So if we go with the idea that happiness is based off our expectations, we have 2 ways of being happy: either raise reality or lower expectations.

Raising reality is certainly possible in many cases. If you lose those 15 pounds you will be happy with your body again.

But for many cases, changing reality is the only way to go because our version of reality might be false. Think about how many young men and women are depressed because they see their friend's highlight reals on Instagram and Facebook and think that that is the norm.

But once you know the formula for happiness, then you can put together a plan to increase it.

For myself, being in the bay area, I always felt like I was "behind" as peers of mine got ever nicer cars and prestigious job titles. Another way I shifted my reality was through travel; stepping out of the bubble and realizing again how much I have to be thankful for. I continue to gratitude journal each day to keep that reality in check.

Monday, December 24, 2018

You Don't Need To Wait Until January 1

Its the 24th of December and a lot of people might be planning their new years resolutions. But I wanted to give you a reminder that you don't have to wait until the new year. If you were to start the day I wrote this article, it means you have an entire week to start doing the thing that you want to do. One week is a precious building block of time to build your castle of the new you. Don't waste the opportunity.

Again, there is no need to wait. If you are reading this on April 23rd, then make April 23rd resolutions. Aligning your start with some arbitrary date that someone chose as the "beginning" of our planets orbit is a bit silly. Putting off the start of something is just another form of procrastination. Best of luck to you all and cheers to a new and better you!

Thursday, December 20, 2018

A World Of Tradeoffs

I've always maintained that, for a sufficiently large code base and especially if working with multiple coders, in order to judge whether or not an engineer was any good, you couldn't just look at the product and the the code. Instead you would need to understand the tradeoffs that the engineer made. Can you tell by just looking at the code? Sometimes, but not always.

 Every large code base is a giant mix of tradeoffs at different levels. There are a lot of decisions made in meeting rooms that might not be 100% explained in the code. Because of relationships and internal politics, sometimes an engineer has to pick and choose their battles. They might let go of a technical decision here to win a more important one on another front. Maybe they feel one technology is better but went with another technology because the other engineers on the team were more familiar with it. Maybe their boss is stubborn and they are optimizing to keep their job and get higher bonuses rather than making the engineering top notch. The most common tradeoff is time. It could be better if there was more time to make it so, but under a lot of time constraint, the engineer chooses the best solution that will make it within the deadline set. The list is endless, its not always about having the perfect 1's and 0's in a vacuum.

Now if it is this hard to judge whether an engineer is good or not based on the result. Imagine trying to judge an actual politician...

Monday, December 17, 2018

We must apply, we must do.


A friend asked me what good books I've read this year and the answer is none. You see, I'm a natural reader. I grew up reading a lot of books. My dad would take me to the library and I'd collect a whole sack of books. Read them quickly and then bug dad to bring me back for more. Even a couple years ago (after I learned techniques on digesting books more efficiently), I read over a hundred books that year.

But this year I went on a book reading diet. Bruce sums it up pretty well. Knowledge in itself isn't valuable. Having the ability (discipline in many cases) to act on that knowledge makes it valuable. Its a little bit both of knowing and doing and good balance is necessary. Doing should naturally incite a need for knowing more and knowing should trigger a need to act. Since I've traditionally leaned on the side of digesting lots of information and then not doing anything with that info, I've decided that I would read 0 books this year. I still write down good book recommendations for later. But this year, and probably next year as well, will be dedicated to doing. Done.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Are You Holding Back?

One of the great tests of passion is to ask yourself if you are holding back. Are you trying to do less work at your job? Are you trying to get out of writing an essay at school? When it is work we don't want to do, we've been trained to hold back. If we give too much effort they will just ask for more.

However, when you are doing something you love, when you are creating art, you no longer hold back. You ask how you can do more. You get disappointed when you have to put your brush down at the days end. You forget to eat lunch since you were so caught up in learning to strum a new song.

You can still be passionate at a job. I've been. There were times that I put in work to build a feature on the weekend that was work related. It wasn't to get ahead, I didn't bother to tell anyone, I just was having fun and I was learning. Of course at the same job I did lose that passion later on.

Asking myself if I am giving it my all is a great test for me to decide if I should continue doing the thing. It works out nicely because if I'm not into that job, I'll probably end up mediocre and stuck down the line anyway. Arguably, being good is a prerequisite for happiness. Even if it is a nice job, I'm better off doing something I'm willing to be my best at. In the long run I'll win.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Starting With Too Much Is a Problem

Is starting with too little, maybe being born with some disability or into poverty, a problem? Probably...

But Malcolm Gladwell has done some research showing that there are a high number of successful people with dyslexia including: Goldman Sachs President Gary Cohn, Richard Branson, Charles Schwab, Henry Ford. In his book, David and Goliath, he makes a good case that the popular narrative of these people becoming successful despite their disability might be incorrect but instead that these people became successful in large part because of their disability. Similar to a blind man developing extra ordinary hearing ability, the dyslexia may have sparked them to develop extra ordinary business sense.

Along the same lines Elon Musk has stated many times that the vicious bullying and childhood trauma helped him become who he is. He publicly wondered whether his children are too soft to become entrepreneurs.
"I had a terrible upbringing. I had a lot of adversity growing up. One thing I worry about with my kids is they don't face enough adversity." -Elon Musk 
 These people, however, are the exceptions. Not everyone reacts the same way when faced with adversity.

Most people will agree that starting with too little is a problem although there are exceptions. But what about starting with too much?

 I think its a bit of the same tune as having too little. In our culture it doesn't seem rich people have so much sympathy to complain or have mental problems. As if people expect money to solve all problems. How many rich and "successful" people have drug addictions or mental breakdowns. What about what we have learned about lottery winners? Gary Vee talks a lot about some of the multi millionaires he knows being miserable and some of the 40k/year joes being the happiest people he knows. I'm sure you'd agree that if you are born into a trust fund your experience in life, your struggles, will be significantly different than someone who isn't. They certainly have adversity but likely not at the same level, to the point that some of them wish they were never born into a trust fund. If life is about growth, then having everything right at the beginning can certainly a problem.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Sort By Price

Seth Godin had a pretty interesting bit about sort by price. He was saying that in the age of the internet, we now more than ever before have a way to sort by price (or any other single metric). However, if you are trying to sell a good or service. You want to avoid the sort by price game.

If you are a freelancer, you don't want to say. Hey, I'll do it for $5 cheaper than my competitors. It's a race to the bottom. There is always someone willing to do it for cheaper. Instead, you want to build trust and value. You want them to say "we need Jerry for this project, go get him". You can charge a fair price to people who value your service and thus you can afford to better serve them. For those that don't value what you bring to the table and only want you if you are the cheapest you can pass and say "sorry, its not for you".

On a similar note I've been browsing the IndieHackers forums and one very common advice is to charge more money, often saying you can probably double your price as it is, or at least experiment with doing it. It flips the script of sort by price: instead of creating the product and setting what you think it should be priced at, set the price high first and then raise the value of the product or service until it matches the price. If you do it this way then you know you are not selling yourself short.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

It's All About Expectatins

The reason we are angry or sad about something is not because something happened. It is about our expectation of what should happen. I believe it was Tony Robbins who said this but not 100% sure. But its such a good insight.

So let's say your coworker says something to offend you. You react by saying "how dare you say something like that to me". You can see that it is not the fact that she said what she said but rather that you didn't expect her to say it.

Or another example is if you are a manager and your team makes a mistake and the website goes down. You get angry at them because, not because of what they did, but because you expect this to not happen. You might say "I can't believe they didn't test properly" or "If they had followed my instructions this wouldn't have happened".

It turns out that your expectations and reality are not the same. You didn't expect that driver to swerve in front of you, but they did! You didn't expect your team to screw up causing your manager to yell at you, but it happened! You didn't expect your kid to misbehave, but she did! And so you get angry or mad or sad as a way to cope.

If you find yourself reacting negatively. You may need to adjust your expectations. It is YOU that is unreasonable, not reality. This thinking will actually empower you and lower your stress. If you change your expectations to people are human and make mistakes, then your actions will change.  When your team makes a mistake, you won't get angry or frustrated, instead you will think "what system can I put in place to make sure this doesn't happen again". If your kid misbehaves you might ask yourself why and provide more teaching, or encouragement.

Its not reality that's that problem. It is what it is. Instead ask yourself if your expectations match reality.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Is It Worth it to Buy a Warranty?

I used to work at a company that sold extended warranties for electronics such as phones & tablets so I'll share a way of thinking about warranties.

A warranty is just a form of insurance. It is insurance for if your product breaks. It protects you from the negative experience of that event. Most people buy warranties because they fear what they would do if their device breaks. If you drop your phone or one day your phone fails to turn on for some reason that can be a hearbreaking and costly event.

Is it worth it to buy a warranty for your phone? One great way to think about it is to take  step back from the situation. Let's say you don't have one phone anymore but instead you own an entire factory of phones. So, now you have to ask if you would buy a warranty for every phone. This pulls one away from the emotional thinking of covering their specific phone because one phone does not have more meaning than another phone. This turns it more from an emotional question into a profitability question.

And now you are looking at expected value. Over the long run would you come out ahead when the warranty pays out vs the amount you spent to buy the phone?

Even before making estimates, you could ask your intuition and it'd probably be right. An insurance company makes money by paying out less money than the risk of insuring the thing. In order to do that it has to win the information game. It needs to properly access the risk of the payout event to happen. And they don't have to be exactly right because they can limit their risk by charging a little bit more for the insurance. And if getting this information is the core of the business, you can be that there are some pretty intelligent people working on that problem.

So you have to ask yourself if you have an information advantage over this insurance company. You don't have more information than the warranty company on the risk of the product malfunctioning for the average person. But you do have more information on your self and if you are average! Do you have a dog or kid that will chew up your phone if left unattended? Are you highly emotional and throw your phone whenever you are angry? In this case you might be in a category where it would be more profitable to own the warranty than to not. *Although if this is true you still have a net loss as you pay deductibles on phones and buying warranties. You may want to adjust your habits and protect your phone more*

And the last part of having a warranty is peace of mind. Even if a warranty is -Expected Value, a lot of people dread the fact of paying $500 or more for a new phone and they would sleep better if they bought that warranty. This would be a valid reason to buy. Back to the example of the factory of phones. If I was the owner I'd be fine not buying the -EV warranty for my thousands of phones where but I'd certainly get fire insurance for my factory burning down and losing it all.