Thirty Thoughts at Thirty

A chain of thoughts starting from a seemingly tautological statement.

  1. There is much of the world that I definitely do not know about.
  2. Hence, I have to rely on many friends to navigate the world around us.
  3. Reliance on friends means that I need to take effort to upkeep relationships with friends.
  4. Upkeep can be intimidating; maintain a comfortable circle, but make sure to be meaningful in said circle. Said circle is a “first degree circle”.
  5. Just as I rely on friends, the inverse relationship also applies. In friend circles, each person is likely to be good in something. Self-improvement extends beyond self; it extends to helping friends within one’s circle as well.
  6. Circles are likely not complete. It is unlikely that even the largest friend circles can map out a significant fraction of what there is to know to navigate the world. Hence, bridging across friend circles is important.
  7. Each of us, hence, can also function as a proxy across different groups of friends to maintain a network. Going through a proxy is a “second degree” relationship.
  8. Even among relationships of the same degree, they are not equal. Some are close “first degree” friends, whereas others are “first degree” acquaintances we do not meet very much. But they provide different perspectives we can use when we mull over different unknowns in the world.
  9. Close friends have seen us in some of our darkest moments; they have a more “insider” perspective of us and can give contextually correct advice. Acquaintances may not know us very well, but can give us advice pertaining to how external parties see us.
  10. Besides looking at Thought 1 (the seemingly tautological statement) from a network perspective, we can take another approach to this. Here, we divide the large part of the world “I definitely do not know about” into two different components — parts I know I lack knowledge in and parts I am not aware of my deficiencies.
  11. Not knowing what we do not know is a lack of awareness. To improve awareness, stay curious. While curiosity kills the cat, cats have nine lives. Until we observe these cats after being curious about them, we do not know if they are alive or dead.
  12. Knowing what we do not know is powerful knowledge. Investing in a subject area to understand it is time-consuming, but knowing we did not invest in it is humility. We are aware of our cognitive limitations.
  13. One of the best ways to be aware of what we do not know is to search, in real space, as many possible topics there are in the world. For instance, browsing book titles in a library makes us humble to the fact that we have read very little.
  14. Now that we realise our lack of knowledge in real space, we can then approach our networks with many different people differently. We can network with them with the premise of wanting to learn and understand more, not judge them.
  15. Ask intelligent questions. Questioning is an under-appreciated ability. With good questions comes insight. With bad questions comes frustration and blue ticks.
  16. There exists open-ended and close-ended questions. Open-ended questions are used to explore while close-ended questions provide focus.
  17. Ideation through open questions help us to connect dots in seemingly different areas. E.g. biologists find physical models increasingly useful at modelling statistical behaviour of regular arrays such as cells. Biological systems, in turn, give us insight to how division of labour works, much like how societies around the world function today.
  18. Ideation can be chaotic and sometimes lead to nowhere. Eventually we must decide to converge on some areas of focus.
  19. Focus by asking close-ended questions. Question on the feasibility, value and risk to pursue certain dreams.
  20. Questioning is important. It forces us to break out of our preconceived notions and give thought to what we are sometimes careless about.
  21. We likely do not have all the answers to all the questions we ask. This is part of the imperfect world we live in. After all, our seemingly tautological statement remains true; we simply know too little to operate in perfect information space.
  22. Hence, we must make decisions despite the lack of information. This requires good judgement.
  23. Judgement can only be trained by operational experience. There is no prescribed text for judgement.
  24. Because of imperfect information, we may be set up for mistakes that we cannot avoid, or miss out. We sometimes make bad decisions. When it happens, how do we recover from them?
  25. Part of experience is knowing how to recover. What does not kill us makes us stronger.
  26. To learn how to recover, we must try and fail. The probability of success without experiencing failure tends towards zero anyway.
  27. Trying and failing is in effect, learning by doing.
  28. Learning by doing is effective. It forces us to go through the life cycle from ideation to execution. Some ideas never make it. Some make it and get stopped halfway. Others take flight.
  29. No matter what the results of learning by doing are, they are irreversible once they happen anyway. Learn regardless of outcome.
  30. With our learning, we can fear the unknown less, and approach Thought 1 with a little more confidence. Rinse and repeat.

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