Learning From Others Is Overrated


Febrilian / September 02, 2021

4 min read

Jeff Bezos

Any non-beginner chess player knows that the single most important thing to learn chess is to analyze the game that you just have finished. It does not matter how excited you are for your next game — your next ‘action’ — you should analyze your game, especially when you lose. I think that is a profound idea on how to approach life. The act of analyzing your life and learning from yourself will result in a great long-term gains, compared to learning from successful people.

From a mindset perspective, it’s a good practice to step back and rethink about what we do. Every time I have a great impulse to slip away my day, or doing impulsive purchases, I’d just pick up my journal to write down what I’m thinking, and realizing that how stupid my mind was. I have saved myself from a lot of bad decisions just from writing my own thoughts in my journal. Try it, every time you’re having a really impulsive thought, write it down to see how stupid it is. If it’s not, then go for it. Personally, my bank account has been very grateful for my journaling habit.

Learning from ourself can be much better than learning from someone else. Everyone reads Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, and of course it’s great to learn from these giants that have made it. Often people try to imitate what they do, ending up in cargo culting these billionaires, copying the mindset, what they do, and god knows whatever people want to imitate. Let’s think for a second, what do these people actually in order to get there? Obviously not by imitating and overanalyzing their idols. They work on themselves, their own company, their own product, team, engineering, sales, and everything related to their company. It’s all their thing, they act, analyze, and iterate on their own thing. I think that’s the only way we can grow, is to learn from ourselves, what we do, and deeply thinking about what we can do better in order to improve our work. We can’t imitate Elon Musk’s curiosity by reading his biography. The fact that we turn to books about successful people instead of looking inside our messy and tangled mind is a proof that we’re not that curious about our own work.

Just look at this beautiful conversation between a 10-year old and Paul Graham

PG conversation with 10-year old (1)
PG conversation with 10-year old (2)

A lot of our decisions are based on our not-so-conscious, impulsive mind. I have been thinking and writing a lot about this since I’ve read Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman (recommended read btw). The point of analysis, whether it is meditating or journaling is to use your system 2, the slow thinker mind, as opposed to the fast and impulsive mind. Imagine yourself trying to quit your bad habits, but you often get anxious and couldn’t think. Stepping back, having a look at what your mind is currently thinking, can save you from going back to that bad habit. We all know what we’re dealing with right now, it’s a heavy stuff, I recommend soothing yourself and talking to your mind by writing down (or typing) your thoughts. When we’re anxious, a part of our brain called Amygdala is activated. It can hijack your real, rational mind, which is driven mainly by pre-frontal cortex (PFC). This is called amygdala hijack of the PFC. The solution, is to suppress our amygdala. Researches have shown that soothing activities like journaling, meditation, physical exercises, and even cuddling can suppress this effect. Controlling our anxiety leads to better habits, better habits lead to better chance of attaining some kind of personal achievement or success. So cuddling, act of suppressing the amygdala hijack, can lead to success 😎. My argument against it is for single dudes like me, cuddling can be THE bad habit. So I should probably avoid cuddling. /Suffering from success/

Analyzing our day can be more significant than most actions out there. We know this because a lot of our actions are impulsive. Just like how chess players can grow a lot just by analyzing their own matches and learn from it, a great way to improve ourselves is to analyze ourself. We should not waste time on reading about “success stories” if we’re don’t even know what is happening inside our mind. Hint: it’s a messy mind right there. Untangle them, solve the puzzle, learn from yourself.