Your worldview is made up of…

everything you leave out without realizing it.

  • If you ignore negativity, you’re are positive.
  • If you ignore positivity, you’re negative.
  • If you ignore the external, you’re introverted.
  • If you ignore the internal, you’re extraverted.
  • If you ignore the theoretical, you’re practical.
  • If you ignore the practical, you’re theoretical.
  • If you ignore the facts, you’re assuming.
  • If you ignore the assumptions, you’re operating from the facts.

When you look at your own hand, you can see different levels of detail depending on how close you look and how much time you’ve spent learning to “see”. The mental model of that hand is extremely different if looked at by a toddler or a skilled artist. The toddler sees five fingers. The skilled artists sees four fingers, a thumb, rough proportions, the deviations in shape of the fingers, the smooth/roughness of the skin, the wrinkles and lines, the level of manicure on the nails. the skin tone and the hues, the freckles, the veins, the ligaments and shape of the knuckles. By comparison, the toddlers simple model of the hand is defined by all the things he is lacking in comparison to the artist.

The question is, does the artists mental model of a hand lack anything?

The answer is “We can never know.”

For the most complex subjects, no one will ever have a “complete model”. These are things like economics, politics, how to organize a business, how to live your life, your purpose, what is art and more. However, the fact that we know our mental models will never be perfect is an opportunity to reflect on all the things we miss, incorporate new information and disregard outdated concepts. This is a skill in the same way the artist had to teach himself how to see all those details in a hand in order to be able to draw or paint it. Changing your mind isn’t a weakness if it helps you frame the subject in a new way.

The Engineer’s Paradox

Engineers are trained problem solvers. How many times have you heard that? It turns out many engineers want to solve more challenging problems, growing bored with the routine. As a result, the REAL challenge is then finding more difficult problems. Many engineers change jobs searching for these challenges, but reality comes quickly, the new problems become routine.

Less often are engineers trained to be problem proposers. I call this, “The Engineer’s Paradox.” In order to work on challenging problems, an engineer who is highly creative and well-versed in technical knowledge has to propose one. If (s)he does, (s)he’s most likely the person to solve it. At it’s core, “The Engineer’s Paradox” boils down to the fact that in order to solve the most difficult engineering challenges, you can’t be an engineer. You have to be more than an engineer, becoming either an entrepreneur, or an intrapreneur, thinking up new inventions, the challenges they face, the business case on why they would be an improvement, and who the customer would be. While there are some exceptions, the best odds for working on interesting problems is through your own creativity, salesmanship and persistence.

The real point that makes it a paradox is that an engineer doesn’t work on the most interesting problems, a great salesman or marketer with an engineering background does. It challenges the idea of what most engineers think sales and marketing are.

P.S. If you ever read about Nikola Tesla, one thing that’s commented on routinely is his “showmanship.” Think about how that contributed to his career.

How to not fall behind. Don’t steal from tomorrow.

Listening to Ray Dalio in How the Economic Machine Works ( I highly recommend clicking the link and watching the video if you have 1/2 an hour.), it becomes clear that debt creates cycles. These cycles are what shape the economy. There is straight, linear growth, plus fluctuating short-term debt cycles, and long-term debt super cycles.

These cycles in his presentation center around money, however, I like to think of investments also in terms of time, the scarcest resource there is. It’s crazy how often people, myself included, “borrow” time from tomorrow for something they don’t feel like doing today. The equivalent short-term example, would be failing to clean the kitchen after cooking because you’re exhausted. Or because writing sounds more attractive. Or playing video games.

Whatever the reason, eventually, the dishes will be needed, and they’ll have to be washed. Whenever that happens, that day will lose time as repayment for the borrowed time from the day before.

For me personally, I’ve taken on the “debt” mentioned above at times through extracurricular activities, like writing this blog, something I’ve enjoyed and wanted to put more effort into. That zeal leads to borrowing time day after day, neglecting car maintenance, or ignoring that stack of mail that needs sorting. Eventually, things caught up to me in other ways, and “balance” was forced upon me, I had to pay back the debt, making me have to do all the other things I neglected.

It seems counter-intuitive, but it’s a powerful way to think about life. The things that are important, need to be accomplished with small, incremental and persistent steps because life needs to stay balanced. If there is something you dream of accomplishing, don’t start by doing too much, start by doing a little, everyday. The other alternative is foregoing the small, incremental steps and ending up with a “debt” super cycle, a huge amount of work to catch up to your ambitions due to skipping the many small steps.

Don’t end up trapped by “debt” take small steps with persistence to get what you want in the future without paying too much for it tomorrow.