Category Archives: Personal

Thinking about the problem versus the solutions

In a post from earlier this year, I wrote about how providing the right answers is only important assuming we’ve first asked the right questions. In fact, once we ask the right questions, the answers are relatively easy to find.

Albert Einstein conveys a similar view in this quote“If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.”

In other words, thinking about the problem at length helps you ask the right questions. Once you’ve done so, the answers tend to fall into place with relative ease.


Every action you take, no matter how positive the intent, can be taken out of context, spun, and presented in a negative light. All you need for this to happen is people who don’t like you.

Similarly, every action you take, no matter how negative the intent, can be presented in a positive light if the people doing so like you, or fear you.

I’m not advocating for the latter.

For the former, enough people will take this approach based on what you do that you shouldn’t give them another reason to do so by not being kind.

Hard at first, easy later

Doing something consumes energy. As a result, you have less energy to do the thing again in the short term, which makes it harder to do.

However, doing something also builds that thing into a habit. This means that it takes less energy to do the thing in the long term, which makes it easier to do.

So you need to do things that are hard at first in order for them to become easy later.

Wind sculptures

A wind sculpture is a sculpture that changes shape based on the strength and direction of the wind.

I first encountered a wind sculpture when my wife and I visited Buenos Aires about a year and a half ago. The Floralis Generica at the United Nations Plaza in Buenos Aires not only has petals that close in times of high wind, but also changes shape based on the rising and setting of the Sun.

Here’s a video with more examples of wind sculptures.

Besiktas in the UEFA Champions League

Turkey’s sole contender in this year’s UEFA Champions League, the top European football club competition, is Besiktas.

The group stages just ended this week and Besiktas achieved something that no other Turkish football club has done in the competition so far. They completed their group stage matches undefeated with 14 points, after winning 4 and drawing 2 of their games. This represents the highest number of group stage points ever collected by a Turkish football club in the UEFA Champions League.

I congratulate Besiktas and the club’s fans on this excellent performance, and look forward to seeing what’s next in store. It could be quite surprising.

Doing less rather than rushing

When you’re giving a presentation in a predetermined time slot and you realize that, if you continue at your current pace, your presentation isn’t going to end on time, you have two options. You can either speed up your pace by talking faster or cover less content by focusing only on the most important remaining content.

The former approach creates stress, and that stress impacts not only your ability to communicate your thoughts but also your audience’s ability to understand your message due to simultaneously thinking about your frenetic body language.

The latter approach means that you don’t cover some content. However, by skipping the content that isn’t a priority, you can get the key elements of your message across, thereby retaining your calm and increasing the likelihood that your audience understands your message.

The reasoning outlined above regarding what to do when you’re pressed for time when presenting can be generalized to other contexts. Specifically, when you’re pressed for time, it’s better to do less by prioritizing the important things than to do the same amount by rushing through it all.

One day at a time

“The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time”

This is a quote attributed to Abraham Lincoln, and I have two takeaways from it.

The first is that you can’t do everything at once. If you have a goal, you have to make patient and consistent progress towards it on a daily basis.

The second is that most goals that seem very far away are actually more achievable than they appear. The analogy of climbing a mountain is helpful in explaining this.

Specifically, when you’re at the bottom of a mountain, you can’t see its peak. With each step of the climb, you see parts of the mountain that were previously inaccessible to you. To get to the peak, you must traverse through these intermediate parts. You can’t climb further than your reach at any particular step allows.

Similarly, when you first start working towards a goal, it’s difficult to envision achieving it. By making steady daily progress towards the goal, you unlock new levels that take you closer to your goal, until you can eventually see yourself achieving it.

And just like when you’re climbing a mountain, there’s no short cut. You have to go through certain places before you can get to other places.

The rules that aren’t widely known

There are a set of rules which govern how our world works. In the physical sciences, these rules are precise and map directly from inputs to outputs. In the social sciences, these rules are approximations and produce a general mapping from inputs to outputs.

For example, force = mass * acceleration is a physical science rule, while the input of being kind to others making them more likely to like you as an output is a social science rule.

If the rules that govern a particular context are widely known, there are a lot of people who will be able to apply those rules. As a result, the returns to applying the rule will decline due to competition.

It’s the rules that aren’t widely known that produce the greatest returns for those who identify and apply them.

Distance = speed * time

What you achieve in life can be thought of as the distance that you progress. Distance, in turn, is speed times time.

Speed is how fast you’re progressing, and time is how much time you put in.

This is why you’ll make more progress if you’re working on something that you’re naturally good at, by working with a capable team rather than alone, and by raising external funding rather than relying on internally generated profits. These are examples of ways to increase your speed.

It’s also why you’ll make more progress if you’re spending the majority of your time on one goal rather than pursuing multiple goals at once.


The dicitonary defines cynicism as “an inclination to question whether something will happen or whether it is worthwhile”.

And indeed, many attempts fail, many promises are broken, and even successes are, on a long enough time horizon, impermanent.

But these are just reflections of the scientific laws which govern the world we live in. When you attempt to do something, by definition, there is a chance that the attempt fails. Promises are broken, either because people never intended to stick to them, or because circumstances changed such that it is no longer possible to keep them. And even successful outcomes are soon hopefully superceded such that the earlier foundations which paved the way for better outcomes are eventually forgotten.

However, these are the laws of the world we live in. As such, we cannot change them.

We can only decide whether to be cynical because of these laws or to accept the laws and push forward regardless.