Brain Gains #1 - Life-Changing Ideas, Lagging Indicators and Lessons Learned
When Twitter announced that it would shutter its newsletter service, Revue, I decided that it was time for a rebranding of my previous newsletter, Dave’s Dives. It was a great opportunity for me to learn what I wanted to write about. I’m thankful that I started writing and grateful to those of you that subscribed to it. I hope you’ll stick around for what’s next.
We’re in the golden age of information. There’s far more content out there than we could ever consume. Brain Gains is a newsletter focusing on positive psychology and improving your cognitive experience of the world. My goal is to curate content on neuroscience, Stoicism, the intersection of productivity and mindfulness, and more generally, how to augment your perspective on life.
Please let me know what you think about the idea, as well as this first issue. Your feedback is much appreciated.
Unlimited Willpower 🔋
Is willpower a finite resource? A recent study has shown that if that’s what you think, then you’ll experience a drain on your willpower. On the contrary, if you perceive willpower as an unlimited resource then you won’t experience any “battery drain” after exerting willpower.
I decided to embark on a challenge for the month of January: no sweets or desserts. Earlier this month, I had an opportunity to indulge in glorious quantities of processed sugar. But I was committed to my goal and politely declined. I felt incredible afterward. It gave me confidence and inspired me to keep refusing temptations over the coming month, which is in line with the idea of unlimited willpower.
If you have goals or resolutions that you want to achieve this year, keep in mind that you can resist temptations and feel as if you can keep doing so if you believe in unlimited willpower.
Life-Changing Ideas 💡
Morgan Housel is one of my favourite writers. Even if you aren’t interested in finance, Morgan’s ideas can be extrapolated to any field. Here, he shares some ideas that have shaped how he sees the world. My two picks:
Everyone belongs to a tribe and underestimates how influential that tribe is on their thinking. Finding your people is a fantastic feeling. I’m a self-professed nerd. When I became a software developer, I realized that many of my peers shared the same interests and even values as me. But “groupthink” is real, and it can be a problem when it comes to diversity in decision-making, points of view, and opinions of opposing perspectives. We should relish the social connection of tribes but be aware of their flaws.
Your personal experiences make up maybe 0.00000001% of what’s happened in the world but maybe 80% of how you think the world works. I’ve judged people that don’t act in line with my values or the way that I perceive the world. But we can’t know what other people have gone through because we haven’t been them. We don’t know how their childhood was. We don’t know their past traumas. Hell, we may not even understand the culture that they were raised in. Realizing that our experiences are not a reflection of how the world works builds empathy and critical thinking.
How often do we appreciate how much effort goes into any success? I watched Team Canada win the World Junior Hockey Championship the other day. I marveled at Connor Bedard’s talent. Gaped at how many points he earned in the tournament. What I didn’t do was ask myself how much he must have practiced in order to get to where he is today.
Success is a lagging indicator. Success means that we’ve put in the work time and time again and have finally reaped the rewards.
It’s 10:40 pm and I’m writing this newsletter so that I can send it out tomorrow morning. I could be reading in bed, watching YouTube on my phone, or sleeping. But I know that consistency is king and will give me the momentum to continue publishing future editions of this newsletter. One day, I’ll have a backlog of content for my readers built upon a foundation of hard work.
As we enter into a new year, I think it’s fitting that we remember how important it is to put in the work. It’s not fancy. It’s about repetition. It’s about choosing to do the hard thing over the comfortable thing.
Lessons Learned 📖
Sahil shares some great advice on what he learned in the past year. Some of my favourites:
Most people don't actually care about you. Harsh but true. Most should certainly exclude your family, friends, and loved ones. It has reminded me that we should stop caring about what other people think about us. It’s also a reminder that being kind and empathetic towards others helps us stand out.
Walking more will change your life. I love going on walks with my fiancée, our son, and our dog. We’ve gotten into the habit of returning to our old neighborhood — we only moved this past June! — and grabbing a coffee from our favourite spot. Long walks are good exercise and an opportunity for us to catch up with each other and have good conversations.
Attach your definition of success to things that are within your control. One of the primary teachings of the Stoics is the idea of focusing on what you can control. Theoretically, it’s simple. In practice, it can be hard to remember in the heat of the moment. Especially if it’s something that triggers a negative emotion like getting cut off in traffic. The more that we focus on the levers that we can pull and less on those we cannot the better we’ll be.
Focus Beats 🎧
After learning about how 40 Hz binaural beats have been shown to improve focus, I decided to try it out for myself. The linked playlist above isn’t restricted to 40 Hz but I’ve found it effective at keeping me focused on whatever I’m trying to get done.
Thanks for reading Brain Gains! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.