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The Lucilius Parables, Volume I


November 10th, 2020


Imagine looking at your to-do list and seeing the item: start a business.  Few people are perhaps likely to put such a heady item on their to-do list, but the point here is to illuminate the potency of the tasks we delegate to ourselves, and what sort of correlation -if any- exists between the difficulty of the task and the likelihood that it actually gets done.


There is a further distinction to be made.  Certainly there must be difficult things on the lists -written or not- of every person who wishes to grow, otherwise such growth just doesn’t happen.    We need difficulty and challenge in order to expand our abilities.  But difficulty isn’t necessarily correlated with specificity - which is a far more important metric regarding the tasks we assign ourselves.  


Specific is good.  Difficult doesn’t necessarily indicate anything about our ability to get it done.  Difficult and vague is far more challenging than a task that’s difficult and specific.  A hazy task offers many different possible directions for starting, whereas specific narrows this task considerably, raising the chances that progress will actually happen.


The perennial question arises: which way to go?  Which direction is likely to be bring about the the successful conclusion of our goals fastest?


Apply these questions to that original heady to-do item: start a business, and they don’t necessarily winnow the field down to a consideration that’s more efficient.  A bizarrely specific question that applies generally is more useful: What is the first aspect of this task that can be narrowed with a question?


Or rather: where is the thin edge of the wedge?  How do we slice off the first thin bit of the problem where meaningful progress can be made?


Further, we can ask: what sort of businesses actually exist?  And from here we can further specify to: what sort of structures exist that would be most in line with the sort of life we wish to lead.


These sorts questions take a huge topic and cordon off huge portions of possible answers the fastest - which is exactly what we need in order to make progress.  Larger steps in the beginning lead to the right small steps in the end.  Small steps in the beginning are likely to lead to a lot of wasted time when we eventually realize we’ve been making small steps in the wrong territory and the wrong direction and suddenly need to abandon all that effort time spent.


Heady items on the to-do list are best modified by a good starter question that cracks the egg and gets things rolling.  Best to first the most specific way to eliminate as much of the subject as possible.

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Podcast Ep. 940: Heady Item

Tinkered Thinking

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