Right now I’m reading Poor Charlie’s Almanac, in which he describes creating a “latticework of mental models”.
I have two that I use (in addition to others), & these two seem to be novel - at least I don’t frequently read them anywhere. I would like to write them down so I can return to them in a year & see if they’ve had any effect, or if I’ve forgotten them.
I find that reducing or increasing friction is the easiest way for me to make changes in my life. I picked this up from creating software, where oftentimes the goal is to reduce the friction for a user to complete a desired action. Watching an increase in % of actions completed on your analytics platform after pushing a change is very gratifying.
In my experience, the % increase or decrease can be a result of almost imperceptiably small changes. At a conference, Marissa Meyer recounted a time when Google increased the number of results per page from 10 to 30. When they did that, traffic dropped 20%*. In her opinion, the drop was due to a ~500ms increase in page load time.
There is no reason for me to believe that I’m immune to that same reaction as the Google users, so I try to apply that tool for myself. A concrete, silly example of increasing friction is putting my fruits and vegetables in a more visible spot, and putting unhealthier things in the lower bins.
One Day at a Time
In How to Get Rich, Felix Dennis wrote that stopping his narcotics habit was the hardest thing he had ever done. However, he built up a magazine empire, and died with a ~£750m net worth. By most standards, reaching that level of business success is incredibly hard. So what tools do people use to give up addictions, a task that is even harder than becoming a near-billionaire?
One mindset I hear repeated often is, “Take it one day at a time.”.
I think that mindset is applicable to reaching success in business for two reasons. The first, is in the same sense that Alcoholics Anonymous uses it, which is to mean “Don’t worry about how you’re going to keep this up for years, just worry about not drinking today, which is within your capabilities.” That is applicable when trying to create a large business, which can seem overwhelming.
The second, which I think is less applicable for alcoholics (I don’t know), is that focusing on only accomplishing your goals today keeps you from worrying about your progress. For most people, seeing results takes longer than expected. If you keep on reframing your work based on your current progress, you will become unmotivated. By focusing only on doing the Right Thing™ today, it keeps you on track without loss of motivation.
In my head, those two reasons had a clearer delineation, but I’m going to keep them here anyway.
A valid criticism of applying the “One day at a time.” mindset to business is that it could cause you to miss the forest for the trees. For a recovering alcoholic, the goal is clear and simple, to stop drinking. Goals in business are a lot hazier - things like “increase average customer time spent in store” are a lot less actionable. You can’t just “do” that every day, you have to pick actionable tasks that line up with your goal.
However, in practice, for me, this rarely happens. I don’t have any explanation as to why. Maybe I’ll think about it and return to this.
* I could not find a better source - if anyone has a more direct source that would be great.