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Thinker 8

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

What is a thought?

Is this question I’m asking myself a thought?

If so, is it the question as a whole? Is it the units of meaning that make it up?

Thought – like many of our concepts – is a fuzzy concept. It seems clear and solid when you use it. But when you start examining it, it slips through your fingers like sand.

My favorite kind of puzzles.

Pattern-Breaking Questions

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

I lost balance.

“How is this beautiful?

I call this type of question, pattern-breaking questions.

Expressed as a template:

How is this x?

How is this fun?
How is this funny?
How is this a gift?

On Balance and Design

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

Every time something disturbs your Balance is a beautiful opportunity.

A learning opportunity, in understanding the causes and practicing recovery.

A creative opportunity, in designing an optimal response and the learning protocol itself.”

“What is the output of the design process?”

“A set of practical questions for every aspect of the process.

For instance:

When x, what y? (question template)
When you lose balance, what y? (question template)
When you lose balance, what is the optimal response?

Recovering balance has a mental and physical component. Translated in question form:

When you lose balance, what do you want to think?
When you lose balance, what do you want to do?”

Top of Your Mind as Resource

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“What do you mean by ‘top of mind’?”

“As you know, certain things you see or hear linger in the background of your mind, sometimes long after the initial event. We can metaphorically think of the mental space that contains all these items, top of your mind.

All recurring thoughts are on top of your mind.”

“Is this a priming effect?”

“It is.

The top of your mind can be used as a creative resource. It’s a design space [<link; very short read]. We might think of it as strategic priming.

Ask yourself often:

What are the most powerful resources I can have on top of my mind?

Think mental tools.” 

“Like questions and (mental) models [<link; medium read]?”


On Meditation and Compounding

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“Your breaks after a pomodoro (30 minutes) of deep work are 10-minute long, right?”


What if you did a 5-minute meditation during every break?

All these little meditation rep(etition)s compound [<link; short read].

You start and end the day with a 10-minute meditation. That’s 20 minutes. 8 breaks – 4 hours of deep work – mean 40 more minutes. That’s easily one hour of meditation every day.”

“Beautiful idea.”

Use Patterns

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“What are use patterns?”

“Our default mindset is additive.

The intention is always well-meaning.

‘I’ll add this. Maybe I’ll need it.’

What’s invisible in the moment is that all these well-meaning little things compound [<link; medium read]. In time, little by little adds up to a lot. What’s more, that which is easy to add is (psychologically) hard to remove.” 

“Ironically, most of them you don’t even end up using.”

“I wouldn’t be surprised if the Pareto Principle applies here as well. You use 20%, and 80% just take up space.

Use Patterns are a conceptual tool for revealing patterns of actual use.

Are you actually using x ?
When did you last use x ?”

“How do you overcome the difficulty of removing them once revealed?”

“Switch to the subtractive mindset.

The strategy is temporary removal. In being temporary, you overcome resistance. 

If at any point, you discover you need any of the removed items, you bring them back; That rarely happens. 

Most often, you discover you never needed them in the first place.”

Measuring Progress 2

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“How can I measure progress?”

“There are many metrics you can use.

One of them is what I call the input/output ratio.

How much are you consuming versus creating?

How much are you sharing other people’s thoughts versus your own?”

On Learning and Challenge

Learning should be hard.

If you’re finding it hard, you’re doing it right.

If you’re finding it easy, you’re not learning anything at all.

(Ali Abdaal)

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“How challenging was your last learning time-block?”

“Now that I think of it, not very. I read, I highlighted the useful bits and copied them in my commonplace book. It took close to zero effort.”

“This is our default tendency, the path of least resistance. But in taking this path, our learning efficiency is very low. 

Challenge is feedback. 

In the moment, it reveals your level of engagement.

Are you challenging yourself?
Are you actively learning?

Looking backward, it serves as a benchmark for optimization.”

Question Combos

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“What are question combos?”

“Combo is a term from Magic the Gathering. In the context of the game, a combo is a combination of cards that work well together. They’re synergistic. Combined, they amplify each other, producing an emergent effect.

Similarly, a question combo is a synergistic combination of questions.”

“Can you give an example?”


Question + Opposite Question (Inversion)

What is the best decision?
What is the worst decision?

How to succeed at x ?
How to fail at x ?

How to x ?
How to not-x ?

The Optimal Response

Fragments from imaginary dialogues

“I messed up.

What is the optimal response?”

“It’s a matter of optimally directing attention.

Let’s first focus on the opposite question: (Inversion)

What is the worst response?”

“Focusing on the problem, instead of the solution.
Focusing on what you can’t control, instead of what you can.”

“If you dwell on the problem, you’re stuck in the past.

This is a sunken cost pattern – the past, which is outside your control, influences the present. 

As long as you’re stuck in the past, you’re more likely to mess up again, which makes the problem bigger, hence more likely to mess up yet again. This negative feedback loop is a downward spiral pattern.

The optimal response requires breaking these patterns by focusing on what you can control.

It’s useful to think of it as a practice.”

“What is the structure of the practice?”

“As I see it, it has three components:

– Connecting with your Self / BodyMind through your Breath
– Reconnecting with your Center, with your deepest Meaning, however you conceive it for yourself
– Expanding / Opening (Standing Tall, Structural Alignment, Expansive Stance)

– Radical Acceptance / Self-Love
– Letting Go of judgments
– Letting Go of the past

“How about getting a small win immediately after?”

“Centering and Resetting is a small win. It’s worth celebrating.

Getting one more win can make it even more powerful.

Brian Johnson has a beautiful idea which he calls Destiny Math. Every win is a +1, every loss a -1.

The initial loss is a -1.
Centering and Resetting is a +1, which negates the initial loss.
One more win is another +1, which puts you ahead.“