h Recent Mental Shifts / saffron huang / blog

Recent Mental Shifts

September 29, 2019

I’ve been enjoying the freshness of arrival in London, of beginning to piece together a routine, of new friends and conversations, and of more time for thought. Some things I’ve been thinking about:

  1. I need to use my public voice more (i.e. put content online). There are a few reasons for this: Firstly, the best people are also the most prolific; you don’t improve by waiting months or years between releasing creations you deem perfect enough to see the light of day. Iteration is necessary to improvement, so get it out there. Secondly, my thoughts are actually… not even that bad. Sometimes they’re even good. In any case, they could be useful to people (or eventually useful–publicity allows for feedback which allows for improvement; see previous point). Thirdly, it makes me think more rigorously about the claims I make, and whether I’m willing to defend them in public. Fourthly, letting fears (in this case, of personal judgment) dictate my actions is both emotionally and logically bad, and I’m trying to get over unnecessarily scary things in general.

    01/12 Update: Using platforms like Twitter, where people can easily respond/connect, makes this much better - real humans are out there, not just judgy anons!

  2. The narratives I tell myself about myself are all-important and very malleable. (I knew this intellectually, but rarely hacked this to change my actions.)
    Goal-setting is a recent example. I’ve historically struggled with motivating myself to follow through on my set goals, because I found it hard to be sufficiently motivated by focusing mostly on the ends. I’m not sure this came from a lack of ability to granularize my goals into little, quantifiable ones - even when I did, the motivation to carry me through the smaller milestones was low. I think this is because my self-narrative implicitly stressed the gap between my current self and who I wanted to be, making the rift loom large enough that I felt dispirited. (Perfectionism definitely contributed to this, too.) But if I simply tell myself that that’s the kind of person I am, and try to autopilot my way through my small goals as if I’ve done so all my life, I’ve found that I just carry through. So, rather than ‘I need to strive towards this destination’, instead thinking ‘I’m the kind of person who likes to do the steps along the way’. (More succinctly, ‘what do I like to do?’, instead of ‘who do I want to be?’)

  3. I function best when I have one main priority, and the time to focus on it. School is often difficult and stressful, not because it’s a lot of hours of work, but because of the mental management of diverse and conflicting priorities, and lack of agency (having to do things I don’t think are that important). Focusing on 1-2 objectives at work, and having auxiiliary hobbies that I enjoy (like actually having time for reading!), makes me so much happier, even if I’m just as occupied.

  4. Frequently interacting with, working with, and befriending people of different ages is so beneficial, and constantly checks your perspective. My colleagues are all at least 5 years older than me (I’d guess that most of them are in their 30s? I’m bad with estimating ages? Help?), and I’m living with people in their late 20s-early 30s. I think it’s implicitly helped me prioritize longer-term projects and aims, rather than short-term urgencies (which are generally less important, see 3) above) and provided me a more cohesive picture of what I could be at different stages of life to come.

  5. I’ve been using scale as a mental model a lot recently. Scale is perhaps the most important factor to consider when looking into the past/future and analyzing how things change. It also creates massive problems and opportunities. It’s very useful to think: how does this thing change when you multiply it by 10x, or 1000x? how do the characteristics of this (costs, benefits, other qualities) change if only one individual were acting this way, vs. a city of people all doing so, vs. the entire world?

categories: musings / tags: london publicity narratives prioritisation scale mental models
thoughts welcome here