The Tree of Knowledge

I’m intrigued by Elon Musk’s concept of Tree of Knowledge. He says, “it is important to view knowledge as sort of a semantic tree — make sure you understand the fundamental principles, i.e., the trunk and big branches, before you get into the leaves/details or there is nothing for them to hang on to.”

Vishal Khandelway created a helpful illustration to explain the difference between the trunk, branches, and leaves.

The trunk. Start here and build your foundational principles by reading biographies, history books, philosophy and other non-fiction.

The branches. These are podcasts, medium posts, new best seller books on Amazon, Op-eds in the Atlantic, NYT, Washington Post, etc.

The leaves. These are random tweets and Facebook posts. Back in the age of newspapers, these used to be Letters to the Editor. These are mostly noise.

Spend your time on the trunk and the branches. The leaves are seductive but don’t build help your build foundational principle that acts as your guidelines for making decisions.

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Always start with your principles.

Manage the downside

Seasoned risk takers manage the downside. When they fail, it’s never a knock out blow.

It’s like landing a plane on fumes, even if the final path to landing is a slow glide down to a makeshift runway. They pick the bailout area along the way, and if things don’t go to plan then they divert, land, refuel and regroup.

Increase your risk profile, but also increase the hedge against absolute failure. What’s your contingency plan, how do you mitigate loses? Don’t close your eyes, hit, and hope. That kind move only works in the movies.

Success is about persistence and repetition, but you can’t compete if you’ve crashed and burned along the way.

Compounded benefits

Nine women can’t make a baby in one month. It’s an overused phrase in business, but it’s still a goodie. The sentence is typically a response when someone on the project team asks if more people will accelerate the timing of the project. More doesn’t always equal faster.

Got a beach holiday planned this summer? Doing 200 sit-ups the day before you hit the beach isn’t going to get you that flat tummy. You’ll probably strain a back muscle in the process though.

Want to get a clean bill of health during your annual physical? Staying off sugar, not drinking booze and cutting back on red meat for one week before the blood test isn’t going to help your cholesterol levels.

Are you saving for retirement? Living large and waiting for a liquidity pop or a lottery ticket to play catch up when you are older is a risky move.

Some things you have to do every day. Slow and steady. Be patient and find joy in the day to day rituals. Most things in life compound over time. Start with a little bit every day, and it’ll grow over time.

Mushin

The difference between the first time you do something and the next time is incredible. Muscle memory kicks in after a couple of times. Repetition increases confidence and creativity, and it’s easier to get into the concentration flow. With enough repetition you don’t think anymore you just do. In martial arts, this mind state is called Mushin. It comes from the term mushin no shin which means the mind without mind. This flow state is possible anywhere whether it’s hiking, exercising, working, playing. Rinse and repeat.

When the going gets tough

Take one day at a time. The sun always comes up the next day.

You can only connect the dots looking backward. There will be time for retrospectives later. Now is the time for action.

Over-communicate, don’t bottle it up. Sometimes verbalizing a fear is like slaying the imaginary dragon. Other people will also give you perspective and shared experiences.

Ask yourself how you will feel about this two years from now. It’ll put things in perspective.

Separate what’s out of your control but don’t ignore it.

Worry and stress about things that are certain. Don’t spend energy on worrying.

Ask for help and share the load. Family, friends, co-workers will surprise you.

Stick to your principles and maintain integrity. People will know, and more importantly, you’ll know that when the pressure was on, you dared to be true to yourself.

Take a few deep breaths and check out for a bit. Try to get some sleep and exercise. Sleep and exercise compounds and is a magic stress reliever.

Stay off the coffee and booze.

Keep moving forward and don’t put your head in the sand.

It could be worse.

Keep tinkering

Persistence is a talent. I was at a talk the other day where a middle school teacher explained that her most successful students at the school were not the academically brightest, but the most curious and persistent. When I look back at my childhood and fast forward to where I am now, most of my school peers who’ve done beautiful things in life were the kids in the back of the class who were quietly tinkering on projects or were going deep on hobbies, sports, and extracurricular activities. They were working on things that didn’t offer up easy wins but were rewarding over time. They have taken that same skill in life and applied to business or academia. Persistence is the common theme.

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Seven habits of highly productive giving

Here’s a useful HBR piece co-authored by Adam Grant and Reb Rebele on how to beat generosity burnout. The theme throughout the article is that you need to be a warrior advocate for yourself if you are going to sustainably share your time, energy and experience.

I grabbed these 7 points from the article on how to be a productive giver.

7 Habits of Highly Productive Giving
  1. Prioritize the help requests that come your way — say yes when it matters most and no when you need to.
  2. Give in ways that play to your interests and strengths to preserve your energy and provide greater value.
  3. Distribute the giving load more evenly — refer requests to others when you don’t have the time or skills, and be careful not to reinforce gender biases about who helps and how.
  4. Secure your oxygen mask first — you’ll help others more effectively if you don’t neglect your own needs.
  5. Amplify your impact by looking for ways to help multiple people with a single act of generosity.
  6. Chunk your giving into dedicated days or blocks of time rather than sprinkling it throughout the week. You’ll be more effective — and more focused.
  7. Learn to spot takers, and steer clear of them. They’re a drain on your energy, not to mention a performance hazard.

Enjoy the article.