Staying Out Of The Trap

I read this post from Paul Graham about what we keep at the top of our minds earlier this week (via the Tim Ferriss weekly newsletter) and have been thinking about it off and on ever since. The way our brains work (or don’t) is a fascinating, and sometimes frightening, thing to me.

My quick summary: the reason why you can suddenly solve a problem after being distracted from it for a bit is because your brain is always working on whatever is at the top of your mind. That’s overly simplified and missing a bunch of detail and explanation, so go ahead and read the actual post to get the full picture without trusting my summary completely.

What I’ve been thinking about is the two things Graham suggests are not things you want at the top of your mind: how to get money and disputes. Again, read the post for some really interesting examples of how even great thinkers can fall into this trap.

That’s stood out to me because I keep falling into the trap and then having to pull myself back out. It’s this weird place of having enough self-awareness to know I’m in the trap and need to get out, but still not being aware enough in the moment to avoid falling into the trap. I sidestep it occasionally, but not nearly enough to brag about and if I’m being honest, my batting average is just above a middling minor league shortstop.

So, what’s the next step?

For me, it’s slowing down. When I used to drive for FedEx, the secret wasn’t driving 100 mph between stops – it was finding a comfortable pace where I was moving quickly enough to make good time but slowly enough where I wouldn’t miss a stop or forget something (not just in driving but moving around the truck itself as well). When I cruise through my day as fast as I can, the chances for me to trip into the pit go up exponentially. However, if I give myself space and don’t rush everything just for the sake of rushing, there’s a much better chance I’ll stay topside.

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