Depth And Brevity

I’ve been thinking about this concept for a while yet haven’t been able to put words to it, I think because it’s not currently something that exists. At least I’ve never seen it mentioned before. I’m going to call it “value stacking.”

I’m sure some of you read personal development books, or really any book that teaches you something. You’re familiar with how it works. You read the book. The author gives you his various tips and advice for whatever his area of expertise is, and then you move on with your life.

Most of us process this information in bite-sized chunks. We read a book and the author gives us a mantra like, “Pick a career you’re passionate about” or “if people aren’t helping you achieve your dreams, then you’re helping them achieve theirs” or “help others get what they want and they’ll help you get what you want.”

We read the quote, internalize it, then promptly forget it as we move onto the next one.

I’ve found in my experience that this is great for a fast hit of dopamine, kind of like “entrepreneur-porn.” This isn’t an HD video featuring sex between the owner of a dry cleaners and a direct mail company. Entrepreneur porn is content that wanna-be entrepreneurs consume that makes them feel good about not actually doing any work on their business in the name of “research.”

Normally I would callously blame these hapless wantrepreneurs for their low motivation, poor discipline or lack of desire. But what I really think is to blame is the piecemeal distribution of this “advice” from the alleged experts who are creating content.

  • “10 Things That Entrepreneurs Need To Do To Be Successful.”
  • “See How This 18 Year Old High School Dropout Made $15,502 In One Week!”
  • “Do This ONE THING Every Day To Increase Sales By 632%!”

They’re obviously looking for clicks, downloads, book sales – whatever. I get it.

And they get [the clicks]. And they’ll continue to get them because packaging the information like this is not actually going to cause anyone to do any measurable amount of work who isn’t doing the work already.

We have values here at the CIA

Image result for values meme

So what’s the solution? Something I call value stacking.

This isn’t really any more complex than it sounds. Instead of creating a list of values and explaining them all one after another, you create a list of 3 or more values which build upon each other WITHOUT diving deeply into them.

Think of it like a skill tree in a role-playing game. You pick one skill as a base, then another that stems from the first, and so on until you arrive at a highly specialized skill specific to however it is you want to play your character.

Not to shill the guy’s book even more, but the way I came up with this was reading Tim Ferris’s book, Tools Of Titans. The book is a collection of lessons learned from interviewing ~200 world-class experts, all condensed into a single book. It’s like the highlight reel of a few years of 2-3 hour conversations with people in the top 0.01% of their respective fields.

I actually figured this out by taking notes on the book. I had the PDF open in one window and Notepad open in another and would copy concepts that I felt were worth remembering. By listing these concepts one after another (WITHOUT extrapolating) and assuming their validity, I stumbled upon this little thing I call value stacking.

More specifically, I came up with the following stack that I found very helpful:

  1. 90% of success is just showing up
  2. Pay yourself first
  3. Don’t audition; carve out a niche for yourself
  4. A task will grow/shrink to fill the time allotted for it

This wasn’t the first time I’d been exposed to any of these concepts. I’ve heard all this stuff before. It wasn’t like this was new to me and it probably isn’t new to you either. It’s the idea of listing them one after another and reading/repeating/reminding yourself of them (without delving into a detailed explanation like many content creators are wont to do) that provides the benefit.

It’s the “less is more” approach.

Where’s the devil?

Image result for details meme

Let’s look a little closer at why I chose to stack these concepts. Keep in mind that I will keep these explanations as short as possible. One line is enough.

  1. 90% of success is just showing up – Successful people choose the right goals. Bill Gates is where he is because he invented an operating system and made a deal with the biggest computer manufacturer (at the time).
  2. Pay yourself first – Stolen from investing advice and adapted for productivity: work on your personal projects first before your clients’
  3. Don’t audition; carve out a niche for yourself – Arnold Schwarzenegger never auditioned for any of his roles once he established himself. He didn’t compete, he dominated a niche that he created.
  4. A task will grow/shrink to fill the time allotted for it – When you choose a goal, set a deadline for its completion that is 5-10% of the time you normally would set. Set a 10 year goal and try to accomplish it in 6 months. (Credit: Tools of Titans, chapter on Peter Thiel)

The more introspective people who have bothered to read this far will likely notice that this has a much different effect on their minds than if I were to spend a few hundred words going into gory detail about each of these concepts and how they’re all important individually.

And I’m not saying they’re not. But when you offer them as singular tools like hammers and nails to be used for a specific task, you’re really missing the point. They’re far more useful if you stack them and read them one after another. The Top 10 Lists are really not so bad, but the authors do a disservice to their audience by barfing out a few hundred words just for the sake of SEO and word count purposes.

You can stack any values that you want based on whatever your goals are. I chose these ones because they ultimately give me the feeling that I can accomplish a lot in a short amount of time. And while it’s unlikely that I’ll write 5 bestselling books in a year, it’s certainly within my or anyone’s capability to write one. But if I tell myself that I’ll write it in 10 years, the horizon is too far in the distance that I’ll procrastinate myself into oblivion and ultimately do nothing.

The reason I like this Tools of Titans book so much is that it is chock full of these “values” that you can choose for whatever effect you want. And the amount of explanation in between them is minimal enough that they’re still dangling in your mind while you move onto the next one. Or maybe it was the fact that I was taking notes and inadvertently stacking them anyway.

Regardless, the ultimate effect here is that you are able to give yourself what the personal development community calls an “empowering belief,” which is a cringey way of saying a belief that allows you to get out of your own way and do what you are compelled to do.

Add to this the “fear of doing something is always worse than actually doing the thing” concept and you’re well on your way to getting some shit done.

Food for thought.

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