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“It has been my philosophy of life that difficulties vanish when faced boldly.”

— Isaac Asimov, Professor and Science Fiction Author

Ideas Worth Exploring


Why Smart People Make Stupid Decisions

When it comes to decision-making errors, psychological biases are the culprit. And smart people are especially prone to them.

“Confirmation bias refers to our tendency to look for and favour evidence that confirms our pre-existing beliefs, whilst simultaneously ignoring or devaluing information that contradicts our beliefs.”

“You can’t change what you don’t know exists. This is why being aware of your own limitations in making rational decisions is so important.”

“[S]eek out all possible ideas that may contradict your current beliefs. This will prepare you to make a well-rounded good decision, instead of an irrational bad decision based solely on your beliefs and emotions.”

Big idea: “Smart people make stupid decisions because they struggle with…overconfidence…the wisest person in a room listens more than the others because they know there’s still more knowledge to learn.”

Source: Mayo, The Smarter Brain (4 min read)


How to Break Free from the Fear of Missing Out

The majority of social media users are plagued by FOMO, a recent study found. Fifty-six percent, to be exact.

Herbert Simon, a Nobel Prize Laureate in Economicsintroduced a simple idea in 1956 that is so far, one of the best ways to treat FOMO.

“Simon’s strategy relies on the assumption that we… cannot process the mass of information entailed in weighing all available options and probable outcomes – both on the social networks and off. Thus, the best move is ‘satisficing’ – choosing the first available option that meets our predetermined criteria, which is good enough.”

Big idea: FOMO is a form of perfectionism. It produces a sense of need that is impossible to quench. To get over FOMO, “instead of trying to maximise our benefits,” we need to “seek a merely ‘good enough’ result.”

Source: Jacob Burak, Aeon (12 min read)


Your Life is Tetris. Stop Playing it Like Chess

“Chess wired me to think causally at a young age. Move your knight here; you’ll trap his bishop. Capture that pawn; you’ll weaken his right side.” It seems that this strategy game is excellent preparation for the big battle that is life. But author Tor Bair suggests that to get ready for what life will throw at you, the game you need to play is Tetris.

In life, your only opponent is yourself. “In Tetris, you’re only playing against time and the never-ending flow of pieces from top to bottom…challenging yourself to correctly manipulate a random stream of inputs into an orderly configuration.”

In life, things don’t get harder — they just get faster. “The game remains the same from Piece One until you run out of space on the screen. The only thing that changes is the speed.”

In life, you can’t control the board. In Tetris, “[y]ou only know what the next piece is…You don’t get fooled into thinking you can control the future.”

In life, no one tells you when you’ve won. “I play Tetris every day, and every day I pick up the game knowing that I will lose…But I added a way to win — if I play Tetris every day.”

Big idea: Tetris portrays life’s unpredictability. “Playing Tetris every day builds my determination, my focus, my will to persevere at things I know have no conclusion.”

Source: Tor Bair, Medium (8 min read)


The Big Flaw in Clean Eating

In 2014, wellness blogger Jordan Younger “noticed that her hair was falling out in clumps.”

The 23-year-old “gluten-free, sugar-free, oil-free, grain-free, legume-free, plant-based raw vegan” was “suffering from a serious eating disorder: orthorexia, an obsession with consuming only foods that are pure and perfect.” Younger soon realized that “the problem was not her veganism, per se, but the particularly rigid and restrictive diet regime she had imposed on herself.”

While it is true that “our environment of cheap, plentiful, sugary, fatty food is a recipe for widespread obesity and ill health,” the problem with clean eating is absolutism. “Behind the shiny covers of the clean-eating books, there is a harsh form of economic exclusion that says that someone who can’t afford wheatgrass or spirulina can never be truly ‘well.’”

“[T]his way of thinking is especially dangerous because it obscures the message that, in fact, small changes in diet can have a large beneficial impact. If you think you can’t be healthy unless you eat nothing but vegetables, you might miss the fact that…there are substantial benefits from raising your fruit-and-veg intake from zero portions a day to just two.”

Big idea: “Among its many other offences, ‘clean eating’ was a series of claims about food that were all or nothing – which only serves to underline the fact that most people, as usual, are stuck with nothing.”

Source: Bee Wilson, The Guardian (29 min read)


How an Obsession with Home Ownership Can Ruin the Economy (Video)

Owning one’s own home is a widely popular life goal. Economic policies in many Western countries encourage homeownership.

“People don’t really question the idea that home ownership is a good thing. It’s something that they’ve always been told and assume it must be true.”

Not only has homeownership not always been beneficial for the homeowners themselves “[t]he obsession with homeownership has had unintended consequences” on the economy.

In America, an increase in homeownership was “followed by a sharp rise in unemployment,” with people reluctant to relocate to find a new job. “[E]xpensive housing keeps people from moving to cities,” which constrains the growth of the economy.

Big idea: “This new world of home-owners created more problems than it solved.”

Source: The Economist, YouTube (12m 49s watch)

What I’m Thinking About: To be in love is merely to be in a state of perpetual anesthesia — to mistake an ordinary young man for a Greek god or an ordinary young woman for a goddess.

Today I Learned: Deodorant does not sell well in East Asian countries. It’s because East Asians have a gene that results in dry earwax and less body odor. (Source)

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