Focus less

Found this powerful advice at Medium. I feel the need to re-post it here is a must. This post is credit to Dan Pedersen.

You cannot concentrate more, you can only concentrate less. You cannot try harder, you can only try less.

What does this mean?

It means that if you stop thinking about concentrating more, if you stop thinking about trying harder, you’ll do it automatically.

When we set up two targets – the thing we want to do, and the thing we are trying to do to make it happen, we lose focus and become distracted.

In other words, trying to concentrate more, or “trying harder,” actually distracts us from our natural ability to simply be in the moment and do it. In this sense, concentrating more equates to concentrating less and trying harder is equivalent to trying to try.

The Need To Win

When an archer is shooting for nothing he has all his skill. If he shoots for a brass buckle he is already nervous. If he shoots for a prize of gold he goes blind or sees two targets— he is out of his mind!

His skill has not changed. But the prize divides him. He cares. He thinks more of winning than of shooting— and the need to win drains him of power.

~Thomas Merton, The Way of Chuang Tzu


Repetition makes perfect

That’s another way to say, practice makes perfect.

According to Malcolm Gladwell, it took 10,000 hours to be great at something. To some people like me, such amount of time are a luxury and just couldn’t afford it. 10,000 hours is equivalent of 5 years of full-time job. People like you and me don’t have time that much. Perhaps often, we sometimes want to get stuff works and be, rather than being an expert.

At first, for 10,000 hours, I think I would never be good at anything. Josh Kaufman preach it took only 20 hours of deliberate practice to good at something. By the mean by good is efficient, not expert.

You just want to be good at it. You just want to be effective. Just enough to to get something going, either to kick off, or start a new hobby.

Take writing for example; writing is not the result of our clear ideas. Our clear ideas often emerge in the process of our writing. This is a case of a dialectic. Philosopher Georg Hegel described a dialectic as a three-fold process. There is a thesis that gives rise to its reaction, an antithesis, which contradicts or negates the thesis. The tension between the thesis and the antithesis is resolved in the form of a synthesis. A blog post or casual Facebook status is a combination of your thoughts and the process of putting them onto your computer screen.

This video showed examples to be good at drawing by repetition and reiteration. It’s shown precursory information you need to know before begin any 20 hours of deliberate practice.

Warning, it’s an hour long. So you might suit and make yourself comfortable.

Deliberate practice is the key is to build up your mileage. By trying the same thing and in different variables to produce a different result. Identify what you have done differently and what you’ve learned previously. Then, reiterate and learn from the past mistake to form a new analytical assumption or a stronger muscle memory. Naturally, you’ll became fluent at it.

At first, you probably not confident how to do it correctly or done it nicely. Keep repeating the same practice, and eventually, it will become a new set of knowledge to you. Later stage, it will be made more analytical and logical to you. If you had repeat enough, it would become a skill.

I always look back at myself; storytelling is not something I am good at (need to pay attention to this one more often),  To me, the ability to convey a message in the clear picture or layman idea or in the language that everybody could understand is a skill. For this year, this is one of the parts that I would like to improve and learn for my personal development.


Idea worth sells

In today modern society, almost everyone talks about ideas. These ideas could be silly or can be great depending on our own personal considerations, but I believe any ideas can be beneficial to one another.

In some cases however, not everyone is at the same height as the idea-teller do, hence making the message delivery difficult.

Let alone if the idea-teller has lesser schemes/knowledge or the difference point of views on the subject. Also, put aside the story of factuality and realisticity. Far away. I am stressing about the importance how to create a compelling message and get the idea delivered. That’s all. The gist is to put it into perspective to tell the why, what is the takeaway and why we should care. I am talking about the being a character with the ability to deliver what we think that matters out from the mind. Frequently, good ideas come together with the right message, but it unable to go far because the teller fails to put into the right context to the receiver/audience.

Compelling story telling is an essential skill. Persuasion is always important – be it in advertising, politics, to succeed in job interviews and other many areas. Like it or not, today careers always fallen into this category. Most of the work requires good skill at selling. This demand affects to many aspects in today society.

The bold statement is, everyone should be able to present our ideas effectively. A good message is snap and sticky (graspable).

A sticky (great) idea must be simple to understand. A good idea sticks the best when they’re conveyed narratively. Like telling as a story. Einstein once described; how a person only really understood something if he could explain it to his grandmother.

Let’s follow this snip;

A few years ago in America, certain health groups wanted to raise awareness of the fact that movie popcorn – at the time prepared with coconut oil – contained extraordinarily high amounts of saturated fat, making it extremely unhealthy.

Simply telling consumers that a bag of popcorn contained 37g of saturated fat proved ineffective – the number was too dry and academic to stick in people’s minds.

So they tried something stickier:

“A medium-sized ‘butter’ popcorn at a typical neighborhood movie theatre contains more artery-clogging fat than a bacon-and-eggs breakfast, a Big Mac and fries for lunch, and a steak dinner with all the trimmings – combined!”

This vivid message stuck, spread, and eventually led to the replacement of coconut oil with healthier alternatives by all major American cinema chains.

What we can learn from the story above, the content delivered are both the same, but it only snapped the right spot when it compelled correctly and reflectable to the audience’s experience. People only will start to pay attention when they care, and that will make it efficient.

Let us see what make a message, effective.

#1. Short, clear, easy to chew and digest.

An effective message means it is simple enough. It is understandable the temptation to explain an idea as thoroughly as possible. But when it comes to stickiness, too much detail can be counterproductive. It’s all okay if we know that the audience has the same degree of complication e.g. presenting at academic conference. But what about to who aren’t? If the message was unable to deliver to that people, we’re done.

Rather, strip down what is the matter the most, and keep it in a simple statement. It is easier to understand and grasp the big idea. When delivering a message to masses, it is important to make the message easy as possible regardless any nuances. If it takes long to someone to get the superficial ideas on what you are going telling them; you probably lost their interest. Think about compelling tweets that caught us to click their links.

Opera soup performers are a good example at this. Even the show have not started yet, but they have the audience attention by making an opening stunt that gave heart pounding percussions of ‘this is going to be a good show, now pay us attention’. Before performer reveal it’s content (the show), they gave a subtle motion to their audience to give their attention first and pour the mood and theme.

Get it?

#2. Feed curious, surprise and unexpected element.

In screenwriting, the plot is always a good tool in what make a good story, buying one’s interest.

When delivering a longer idea, always throw provoking curiosity. Surprises making recipient wanted to hear more and stick. Apparently, science told us that our brain turned on unpredictable pleasant things. The brain is love to hear more about the element of struggles, pain and drama more compared when fallen in love. Subconsciously it permits surprised desire experience.

Either you agreed or not, these elements are making people wanted to hear more and more. Make them curious enough, and feed with surprises.

#3. A compelling message must be credible, snappy real and complete.

Be genuine. Good stories are first-hand happenings the teller actually experienced. Yet if it’s a story that’s passed on another after another, an effective presentation still has an element of how that story relates directly to the teller, told in the teller’s own words. The recipe works best with the right amount. Do not over do it.

Regardless of the audience size or background, good stories should work for any audience. It is not how many people can hear what we concern, but just that someone, somewhere stick is listening to it.

When delivering ideas, always keep the first person perspective in mind, because it will give more credibility and original. Incomplete information often makes it difficult or even impossible for the recipient to carry out an appropriate action.

#4. Emotional appeals inspire people to action.

Ideas stick best when they’re told as stories.

Introverts probably struggles compelling idea rightly and that usually make us uncomfortable. Usually, when I able to sold stories, those story usually contain the emotional component. Most of the memorable ones have humour, pain or joy (sometimes all or any combination of three). If every story were simply facts stated, one after another, most of us wouldn’t listen or remember any of it.

To stick a story right, knock the spot with emotions to appeals inspire people to action/respond.

TLDR; Every idea can be presented so that it sticks. Successful stories, advertising campaigns, and ideas that hold generally share recognizable characteristics. The Heath brothers; summed up this straight mnemonic SUCCESs;

Simple – pull the nucleus of the idea
Unexpected – grab people’s attention by surprising them
Concrete – make sure an idea can be grasped and remembered later.
Credible – give an idea believability
Emotional – help people see the importance of an idea
Story – empower people to use an idea through narrative

Any talks at TED are a good example; of every presentation perhaps buried a higher degree of abstraction or technicalities behind it. But the way it delivers is what makes anyone able to understand the message.

So you probably think you think had groundbreaking ideas and billion dollar business ideas (yes I can hear you) that will disrupt this planet badly. You gotta sell that to people with your idea and get it loud. But if you are not convincing or persuasive enough, you will never get the idea sold. Think about this the next time you want to tell someone something (or whether it’s to sell a product/service, make a point or give a speech).

If you want people starts to pay attention to you, be good at storytelling.


Constructive among chaos

To me, right now – the life does not feel like something that has to be balanced, but rather like a tension that has to be managed.

I no longer believe life-work balance. I open-heartedly accept and feel the great pleasure of doing many things.

This awakening of life mostly is figuring out now to create a midst of chaos and make it meaningful out of them. Fondness.

Be happy with the chaos and envoy a journey.


How far we can tolerate in deadlocks?

I learnt this during writing my previous computational paper. It is interesting how we can relate deadlock in real life.

What is deadlock, anyway? In computing, deadlock fancy to occur in systems that implement locking for concurrency control during transactions. When it stuck with two or more transactions, it could not be prolonged to process. So these systems need some kind of mechanism to detect this and resolve the problem when it occurs because of blocked from progressing.

That one is digital.

Let’s think this situation as likeliness example of deadlock; Two small boys stop at vending machine and both would like to get a can of fizzy drink. Unfortunately, both of them did not want to give into each other for the first get a chance to coin in for a can of soda. On the other hand, the machine only can process a job in a period of time, it cannot entertain both of them in a same time. “It’s mine, it’s mine. I am the one who reach here first!”, the conversation goes around similar like that. The boys having frictions, persistent and tenacious to each other and both of them do think the opposer are the one who suppose to not give up. Thus, that situation may take forever to resolved. Likewise, that situation called a deadlock.

A classical example.

Taking this a bitter real, say we commoner; What about Kane is need a resource from Abel, however Abel need a buffer, or another resource from Kane. Both are critical to do before they move forward. That’s a circular-chain-unsolve deadlocked. No way any transaction can go because it is stuck in whole sense.

Right. But again, how far we can tolerate deadlock?

We, the sensible human beings understand the concept of dualism : good-bad, right-wrong, love-hate etc. We too, should understand that there is always another way to achieve something, even though not always the time permits such independence.

A close friend of mine once told me about the concept of give-and-take. I was a kid back then, and was trained by camp to choose to embraced with win-win situation. However, not always allow us, everyone to win. It was a factual piece of advice because not always people reach an agreement with each other in win and win situation. Give-and-take taught to be respectful and giving up sometimes is fine. It concedes us to have a harmonious ecosystem of social relationship by cease something that was wanted and agreeing to some of the things wanted by the other person.

Perhaps we can look at this like mutual exclusivity or mutual inclusivity? Therefore both people agree to be commit to each other and to be in a committed process or relationship. Or agree to disagree.

So, talk. Discuss and decide.

While I am not always get the idea to be smartest guy in the room, personally I think being modest and humble is decent. If you would like to live in harmony society, why not be the first to portray. Deeds count, right?

At the end of the day : Life is always a choice. Certainly, overcomplication is a never ending game.

But that raises another question; how far is a human limit?