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How to Become Smarter: Improve Your Decision-making with These 10 Clever Principles

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10

From: The commonplace of Sir Sunström.

Section: Checklists.

Topic: 10+ decision-making principles.


As to methods there may be a million and then some, but principles are few. The man who grasps principles can successfully select his own methods. The man who tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble.

–Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Do you know the difference between a novice and an expert?

(Well, lots of things obviously. . . but if there was just one.)

It’s pattern recognition; what information they chunk together and focus on, versus what information they filter out.

The novice pays attention to all kinds of random B.S, while the expert uses his limited focus to concentrate on the select few things that matter. This enables him to understand how things work together to produce results.

When we talk about “experts”, the most common association is that of a specialist; someone whose knowledge and pattern recognition is fine-tuned to a small area (of business or academics).

But that’s not what I want to talk to you about now. . .

I want to talk about a number of important general decision-making principles that will make you smarter. You can apply these decision-making principles to become. . .

. . .More successful at just about ANYTHING!

–If you have the dedication to practice them, that is.

When I read books, usually, this is what I’m looking for.

–I train my pattern recognition for these decision-making principles by stacking up repetitions and collecting examples of their application in different areas of life; in business, through history, in nature, and so on…

I think that just about everyone can become successful 1 at just about anything, so long as they abide by a strict code of principles in their decision-making.

What follows are what I think are some of the most fundamental decision-making principles. You should strive to have them all down so well that you can recite them in your sleep.

Decision-making Principle 1: Occam’s Razor

Occam’s razor is a philosophical heuristic which states that when you are faced with more than one choice or explanation, you should start out with the simplest one 2

Example: Begin with the least risky choice and escalate from there.

My Internet has been acting up at home lately, so I called the support of my provider. We then figured out that the problem was related to my computer, and not the network connection. Next, I called the support of Asus (my computer). They told me to do a full-system reset, and then–if that didn’t work–send the computer over to them for repair.

But I didn’t do that. . .

. . . because it would be a more time-consuming and risky solution than necessary (and it meant I wouldn’t be able to use my computer for several days).

So, instead, I did a systems recovery and restarted my computer a few times.

And that worked! 3

Decision-making Principle 2: Diminishing Returns to Scale

A.K.A: Return on investment (ROI).

Most activities in life follow dynamics that look like this picture below (in the sense that you eventually reach a point where further investment of time and resources yield negligible results).

This is true whether the “result” you’re seeking is related to business, happiness, health, status, or some other form of success.

diminishing returns to scale

Example 1: Bodybuilding.

Lately, several friends have suggested to me that my return on investment (ROI) from working out and improving my body cannot be high. They are probably correct 4.

My physique is near-perfect (in my opinion), and I am now going into “maintenance mode”, just working out to break out of homeostasis, push through the plateau, and break records.

Example 2: Optimizing health.

My health has never been better. I have great digestion and I haven’t been sick in like 3 years. All that remains now is to. . .

. . .get the results from the diagnostic blood test I just did 5. . .

Then there will low ROI on further actions.

I’m going to look and feel better when I’m 40 than I do now. No doubt.

Decision-making Principle 3: Pareto Principle (80/20 principle)

In all activities and areas of expertise there are a few fundamental ideas and actions that will give you most of the results. The Pareto Principle states that 20 % of the activities represent 80 % of the end results 6.

Example: Find and apply the fundamentals.

Einstein supposedly said that if he were given an hour to solve a problem, he would spend the first 55 minutes analyzing the problem to make sure he understood it correctly, and the remaining 5 minutes on solving it.

Point being: in nearly everything you do, your time is best spent first finding the underlying fundamentals–the 80/20 activities–and then applying them. Avoid the esoteric and flashy stuff.

 

Decision-making Principle 4: Begin with the End in Mind

Always ask: What is the end goal?

Then use that as a filtering mechanism for determining whether or not some action is worth taking. Super simple, but not enough people do it.

Example: Simplify decision-making.

1) Assume you’ve reached the said goal, is [the course of action] you’re currently considering really worthwhile? 7

2) What is the #1 action you can take, or perhaps should continue taking, given your end goal?

Decision-making Principle 5: Start by Inverting (the problem)

Turn the problem on its head to speed up the decision-making process.

Example: It’s easier to find out what to avoid than what to do.

Instead of trying to think of all the things you potentially could do to become successful–because there are typically an overwhelming number of options–start in the opposite direction and invert the problem 8. . .

Then you will quickly find the key things to avoid; these are typically the aforementioned fundamental 80/20-activites.

Decision-making Principle 6: Winner’s Game vs Loser’s Game

Winner’s game = Win by taking risks and doing bold moves 9.

Loser’s game = Win by trying to avoid obvious mistakes 10.

There is no shame in playing the loser’s game.

–In fact, you should play the loser’s game in most areas of life.

Example: Which dynamics are at play in this situation?

–This is a question you should learn to ask yourself habitually.

For example. . .

Job interviews follow the dynamics of a loser’s game. You have little to win by trying to do crazy things and impress the recruiter, but you have a lot to lose if you mess up. The smart choice is to be calm, confident, and avoid obvious mistakes by doing your research and then rehearsing it.

Decision-making Principle 7: Seek to Understand First

Contrary to popular belief 11, being forceful, pushy, and ‘dominant’ doesn’t work too well in trying to influence others.

The best way to connect with people, befriend them, persuade them to take some action, or sell them stuff, is by first finding their underlying motivations.

Example: Establish rapport first

Even if you do not have a stated goal with an interaction, the best thing to do is to first ‘get in sync’ with the other person. Try to listen more than you talk.

Decision-making Principle 8: Status Quo Contrarianism

The contrarian does not make decisions based on irrational B.S like herd behavior and social proof 12.

Public opinion is of no value whatsoever.

–Oscar Wilde

What is everyone else doing?

I will do the opposite and profit/benefit from contrast.

Example: Assume everyone else is wrong and start from there.

  1. Assume popular opinion (on just about everything) is either wrong, or lagging behind independent thinkers by 100 years.
  2. Assume most people have no idea what they’re talking about, and have little–if any–capacity for accurate thinking.

Decision-making Principle 9: Assume the Worst from Human Nature

Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.

You may go broke or get in big trouble by OVERestimating the intelligence and sophistication of the masses, but you will rarely find yourself in harm’s way by underestimating them.

Example 1: Stoics don’t get upset at stupidity.

Marcus Aurelius said this:

Begin each day by telling yourself: Today I shall be meeting with interference, ingratitude, insolence, disloyalty, ill-will, and selfishness – all of them due to the offenders’ ignorance of what is good or evil.

But that was almost 2000 years ago. As a modern-day translation, I say this:

Most people have no integrity; they are empty shells without substance, flailing back and forth in reaction to seemingly magical forces. The only thing that keeps them going in their pitiful existence, is the large number of rationalizations and comforting beliefs that they’ve come to harbor. 

These lies help them cope with their ineptitude in life, and works to maintain their homeostasis. You could liken it to the glue that holds together the beggar’s nest of patched-up cardboard boxes.

Example 2: Be an Intelligent Pragmatist.

Henry James once wrote that:

Life is, in fact, a battle. Evil is insolent and strong; beauty enchanting but rare; goodness very apt to be weak; folly very apt to be defiant; wickedness to carry the day; imbeciles to be in great places, people of sense in small, and mankind generally unhappy.

Some people might say: “But that’s so misanthropic!”

I say: So be it.

Click this little box for a third example 13.

Expect the worst of human nature and you will not fooled or ruined.

Decision-making Principle 10: “What Price Will You Pay?”

–Because there is no such thing as a free lunch 14.

Before committing yourself to anything substantial, first get it straight how much you are willing to sacrifice to get the thing. If you don’t, you will–almost certainly–end up paying a bigger price than you rationally should.

Example 1: Purchasing something.

Before buying the thing, know this first:

  1. What is the purpose? 15
  2. How well does [the thing] fulfill this purpose?
  3. Is there another way to fulfill this purpose, but cheaper or faster? 16

Only after you know this can you decide if it’s worth “paying the price”; whether the price is money, time, or stress.

Example 2: Is this necessary?

You think you want something, and maybe you do–but how bad, exactly?

What will you lay on the sacrificial altar?

–Your blood? Your sweat? Your afternoon?

Check your intentions at the entrance. . .

. . .before venturing forth into the gauntlet.

Bonus 1:

Decision-making Principle 11: Make Legacy Decisions

Don’t do [whatever you’re thinking about] unless it is something you want to be remembered for.

Example 1:What will they say?

Is this something you want the newspapers to report on? Or for your biographers to cover? Or for the historians to debate over, when they talk about your accomplishments? If “NO,” then don’t do it.

Example 2:How will this help?

Felix Dennis once got drunk and high–right before an interview–and then told a reporter about the time he (supposedly) killed a man in self-defense. That was a dumb legacy decision; fortunately for him, it did not catch on.

Lee Kuan Yew commented on President Jimmy Carter’s biography:

[Carter] recounted how, as a boy, the father gave him a penny or whatever to put into the pew box, and instead of putting one in, he took a penny out. So, the father then thrashed him. I said, why does the man do that? Having done it, how does telling the world that he was a petty thief help?

Exemplary persons to study involve:

  1. Lee Kuan Yew,
  2. Talleyrand, 17
  3. Napoleon,
  4. Caesar, 18,
  5. John D. Rockefeller,
  6. Charles de Gaulle,
  7. Winston Churchill,
  8. Richard Nixon,
  9. and Steve Jobs.

Bonus 2:

Decision-making Principle 12: Cover Your Ass

All courses of action are risky, so prudence is not in avoiding danger (it’s impossible), but calculating risk and acting decisively. Make mistakes of ambition and not mistakes of sloth. Develop the strength to do bold things, not the strength to suffer.

–Niccolo Machiavelli

It is foolish to take more risk than necessary. Before doing something, first figure out if the risk is acceptable. Maybe you can reduce it?  Then get clear on whether you have more to gain than to lose by doing the thing.

Example: Upside vs downside.

My friend wanted to hang from a pole and do pull-ups 145 meters above ground. I advised him not to do it, because the downside is huge (dying).

Even if he had done it, got it on film, and put it up on YouTube or whatever, he still wouldn’t be the first person to do it 19.

Bonus 3:

Decision-making Principle 13: Synergistic Thinking

Synergistic thinking is the fancy word I’ve invented for combining as many of your goals as possible into the stuff you do on a daily basis.

I believe that people who are natural entrepreneurs have some gene for this; the rest of us have to practice it 20.

The purpose of synergistic thinking is to create synergistic processes and systems, which feed into each other in different ways to improve your life.

Synergistic thinking can be applied to anything to make it better, but it requires persistent practice.

Anti-example: Why most people’s lives suck.

The average person works a job from 9-5 that he/she doesn’t feel overly enthusiastic about, and often the job is a bad fit for his/her genetics. This person puts in 8 hours of work each day 21 and then, typically, goes home to indulge in escapism.

–That’s no way to spend your time if you have goals to achieve.

The more successful people combine their free-time with their work-time, by devoting all of it to some sort of action which aids them in attaining the object of their major purpose. Thus, they work about two-thirds of their time and sleep the other third.

–Andrew Carnegie

4 Questions to stimulate synergistic thinking:

  1. How can I combine what I’m doing right now with my long-term goals? 22.
  2. How can I turn my hobbies/interests into a money-making skill? 23.
  3. How can I make this thing I’m doing interesting to someone else?
  4. How can I leverage my existing assets for more value/happiness/results?

This is a very important decision-making principle.

I will write about it in more detail some time in the future.


Conclusion:

1)

Train your pattern recognition for these principles, practice them until they become habitual, start making much better decisions, and–as a result–watch your life improve.

2)

Don’t become an expert at some blah-blah topic because society dictates it; instead, become an expert decision-maker, and you will live a good life regardless of what you do.


Question:

Are you using any of these principles? Can you suggest some other useful principle? If so, please provide an example of how you/someone else used the principle, or failed to use it (and fucked up)..

P.S

Notice how I applied principle #1, Occam’s Razor in structuring this essay.

P.P.S

Click this box for a secret treasure 24.

P.P.P.S

For (a lot) more info on how to develop proper pattern recognition, stay tuned for my book Break out of Homeostasis. Here I am working on it.

Join thousands of others and get free access to my 75 BEST TIPS + exclusive content in the SGM newsletter (I only email about once per month.)
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  1. Maybe not elite, but reasonably successful.

  2. You start with the hypothesis that has the fewest, or least risky, assumptions.

  3. Notice how I am escalating my actions one step at a time, and not skipping ahead in my assumptions.

    This is the shit that builds Nobel laureates! It’s just common sense, but it’s when you don’t follow simple principles like this that you make foolish decisions.

  4. Often, commitment bias, addiction, and other psychological ailments trick us into continuing past a point of positive ROI.

  5. And see what my omega 3/6 ratio + various fatty acid levels are like!

    –After I perfect that, which should take about 3-6 months, I will have reached the end of my quest for optimal health.

  6. –In reality, it is often even MORE extreme; it could be called the 95/5 principle.

  7. Notice how I am applying this principle to my goals for fitness & health, as mentioned in the previous section?

  8. For example, by asking yourself: If I wanted to sabotage my life, what would be the best ways of doing that?

    Assume you will be a winner; assume you have the world, and everything in it, coming to you. Now just avoid obvious idiot mistakes!

  9. Like in talent shows or with publicity stunts.

  10. Like in poker and investing, unless you’ve got some big advantage in your favor.

  11. Well, among young men at least.

  12. Since you’re reading this site, I’m guessing you don’t have a problem with this.

  13. Example 3: Preserve your integrity through accountability.

    Only those who plan in advance and start living by smart principles relatively early in life, to make higher quality decisions, can achieve freedom without compromising their integrity.

    Failure to take responsibility and prepare = not enough personal freedom & power = forced to act out of necessity = high probability of doing dumb shit = ruining their integrity.

    “But I had to beg, steal and rob, I had no other choice!”

    Is necessity a valid excuse for immoral behavior? For example, should Sweden allow parasitic beggar gangs from Romania just because Romania has failed to take care of their own problems?

    In many cases–often enough to use it as a rule of thumb–people who commit atrocious acts out of necessity are idiots/criminals. If they cannot think long-term or understand accountability, whereby they naturally gravitate into circumstances where they are ‘forced’ to act out of necessity, do they not deserve to be where they are?

    Regardless of whether they deserve it or not, that’s exactly what happens. Again and again.

  14. Only socialists believe that.

  15. Why are you buying this thing in the first place?

  16. Consider alternatives / alternative cost.

  17. He postponed the release of his autobiography with ca 100 years, hoping to optimize the timing for when Napoleon’s honor had diminished.

  18. Why do you think he wrote his commentarii?

  19. So, the upside isn’t as good as it might appear to be.

  20. I have been practicing this like a madman for the last two years, and I now do it with relative ease (it has become part of how I think).

  21. (. . .more like 3-6 hours, taking into account useless banter, idleness, and interruptions to concentration.)

  22. E.G: work for expertise or relationships, not for a paycheck.

  23. Can I leverage technology to make this easier? With 99% probability = Yes.

  24. Psych!

    How do you like these boxes?

    I had a lot of fun setting them up, and think they’re kind of quirky.

The Ultimate Commonplace System

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Comments

  1. It seems like quality of focus is the defining factor in your overall quality of life.

    Focus directs attention, which creates your subjective experience. Since our attention is limited, we must be particularly mindful about where we allocate it (80/20 principle, bang for buck economics).

    The vast majority of people allocate their “precious” focus into arenas which stimulate reality (t.v., entertainment, etc) instead of investing it where it matters. These same people then have the nerve to complain about their low-value lives despite the fact that they consistently make poor decisions!

    Our reality tunnels tend to be all-encompassing. Improvements in one area generally impact the others. By raising the overall quality of your focus via high value action, you find yourself living a better life.

    Gary Kasparov’s book “How Life Imitates Chess” has a lot of great insights on the topic.

    Keep up the great work!

    • Sure. If you’re not focused at what you’re doing, you might as well be dead. If your brain doesn’t work properly, life sucks.

      “The vast majority of people allocate their “precious” focus into arenas which stimulate reality (t.v., entertainment, etc) instead of investing it where it matters. These same people then have the nerve to complain about their low-value lives despite the fact that they consistently make poor decisions!”

      –Homeostasis in a nutshell!

      Just googled the book, seems cool. Thanks for recommending it.

  2. “196) Make all decisions logically……”

    What’s that? Where is it from? Your personal rule book? Seems like something clever.

    Great stuff, I learned a lot.

  3. Hey, I always enjoy your tips you are super smart—-I am your age and I don’t know half of this stuff but I’m a quick study so I’ll practice this, I just wrote down all these tips and thought of quick personal examples for each one. (MENTAL HUSTLER). I won’t bore you by listing them all, but here are 2 principle that I use myself:

    #1 DON’T ANSWER UNKNOWN NUMBERS.
    #2 DON’T MAKE DECISIONS WHEN YOU’RE TIRED/SAD/EMOTIONAL.

    Also I think the green boxes are really cool because they add depth to the article and make it more fun for some reason, so you should definitely keep using it if it’s not too much trouble.

    FAST QUESTIONS

    Why don’t you post more essays/content? Are you very busy or are you running out of ideas? I’m a pretty creative person I think but this happens to me sometimes so I wondered if it happens to you too??

    I look forward to your book, you should create a waiting list for it, I would definitely join.

    • Good principles, Doug. I do those things too.

      Re: content:
      No, I am not running out of ideas–I have SGM articles for probably 1-1,5 years going into the future. Yes, I am busy.

      Re: creativity
      I am basically a content machine, and I could pump out a new piece of content every day. But it wouldn’t hold as high quality.

      Good (unique) content takes time to create because it’s based on synthesis: first a long period of “ingestion”, where you just take in lots of info and collect relevant examples. Then eventually it “explodes” and you write it out really quickly. Then there’s a long editing process.

      For SGM, I want to put out detailed and engaging content, based on the insights that have had the biggest impact on my personal development. I prefer infrequent (but qualitative) posting over putting out more content (that isn’t up to my standards).

      I’m setting up my personal site soon. There I will use a different approach/strategy. I’ll be posting more frequently, but shorter content–and on other topics. I’ll inform you when it’s up and you can check it out.

      Thanks for the feedback on the boxes, and on the advice on setting up a waiting list, that’s a good idea. I will do this soon.

    • Hahaha “mental hustler” that word should be patented. I’m gonna check if that domain name is taken, buy it, and start up a business selling caps and bandanas that say “Mental Hustler”. It’s my first enterprise, but I know it’ll change the world and make me rich. Wish me luck!

  4. Great stuff, how did you come up with this/learn how to think like this? And has it been something you have known about and practiced a long time or is it something you think comes naturally to you?

    I dont really know any Principle, but I will practice these ones now that you have shown me!

  5. Oh yeah and those boxes are cool, keep them for sure

  6. Matias Page says:

    This article is another brilliant addition to your website, Ludvig.

    ABOUT THE BLACK BOXES:
    They are great! But I think you should probably introduce them/explain how they behave. Probably at the beginning of the article. They’re unusual and I avoided clicking them because I was expecting some kind of weird shit like some websites bring upon the user (like taking you somewhere else, etc). They seem very helpful and don’t take up space when collapsed.

    • I agree, you should explain them in the intro if you can find a way to do that somehow.

      Principles: I use 80/20 and beginning with end goal. the others were new & seem great!!

      Jen’s principle: here is a funny thing I often do..to avoid stereotyping I have a principle that I must meet someone twice before judging them.

    • Got it, thanks guys.

  7. Great Article Ludvig and the boxes are a novel idea.

    One other principle is “Average Speed” or as I call it “Don’t put too much on my plate.” this involves pacing your focus/energy in a way that you can consistently chip away at a task/goal till completed, like a Sculptor does.

    When I don’t respect this principle I either get burnout, anxiety attacks or lose motivation as I have set my deadline too short and compensate by working too hard.

    I discovered doing less(lowering my Average Speed) on a daily basis takes longer for me to complete tasks/achieve goals but this consistency builds momentum in the long run.

    • What you wrote Axel is according to myself the single most valuable piece of advice that one can give. It is a grave sin to believe that the body is the mind’s slave. In fact, the opposite is far closer to the truth.

      Forcing yourself to do tasks that don’t align with your current condition, such as trying to solve complex mathematical problems while being tired, is a great waste of time.

      Think: “what can i do that is productive in my current state”
      Rather than: “i must accomplish this or that even though i am not really up for it”

      It is easy to laugh at people who are being “inefficient”, such as someone who goes to the store to buy two packages of milk. But their mental budget, in this case the ability to plan their supermarket visits, may very well be depleted. And it might have been depleted while doing tasks that over time earn them bigger rewards than the time they would have saved by making fewer trips to the store.

      • Very true about the mind and the body relation Fredrik. I came upon this realisation when I went over a worksheet I’ve been using over the last 2.5 months to track my daily habits and discovered I wasn’t completing my daily tasks consistently.

        The pattern I saw here was I was trying to do too much in one day. I’ve remedied this by better planning to reflect my energy levels as the day progresses respecting the fact that willpower is finite. So far I’ve seen the results I’ve been looking for. Thanks for the insight

    • Curious Keith says:

      Axel this sounds like a real “know thyself”-sort of thing. That’s great, when you feel like you’re “growing into yourself” like that. This is something I am trying to become better at. It’s funny how different we can work!

    • Great energy-management tips/longevity tips Axel & Fredrik…
      By the way, Rockefeller said an awesome thing about this:
      “It is remarkable how much we all could do if we avoid hustling, and go along at an even pace and keep from attempting too much.”

      Re supermarket:
      –Yeah. Gotta consider alternative cost.

      • Its easy for emotions overpower rational thinking, causing one to push way beyond your “Edge” to quote David Deida when improving yourself.

        Well said by Rockefeller, the Losers Game and a lower Average Speed may take you longer but its more effective and pro-momentum in the long-run.

  8. The Occum’s razor is so useful it’s crazy just how much we underestimate the power of simplicity. The brain thinks that a complex problem has a complex solution and often it really does not.

    I just entered my new job where they were telling me about a problem they had with reading excel files into their software. Apparently software’s default method of reading files wasn’t always accurate, so they apparently spent a whole 3 days writing their own and still having problems. If you know programming, the main issue was that they were having trouble with knowing what data type was each cell.

    I immediately told them of a simpler solution, which was to change the output to a simpler format instead of trying to change the read-excel program. They had a look on their face like, “Did we just waste the last three days?”. These were guys with PhD! They started with angry justifications, I immediately realised my mistake and avoided persian messenger syndrome by making up benefits for their method and calmed them down.

    But this example shows that learning theory can very much be of practical help. It’s only because I knew Occum’s Razor that I had the inclination to find a simpler solution. Secondly, I was aware of psychological tendencies like persian messenger syndrome, status quo and sunk cost fallacy which helped me avoid a bad situation.

    Thank you for recommending Seeking Wisdom. Life is a whole lot different having read it.

    • Richard says:

      Conversely, the tool they developed could yield significant progress down the line.

      The old analogy is that the US spent a [large, probably fictitious, figure] on developing a pressurized pen which could be used in zero-gravity (space), whilst the Russians used a pencil. A good example of simplicity.

      However, what that analogy doesn’t tell you is that the [large, probably fictitious, figure] went directly into America’s economy, fuelling the growth & progress of its brightest, most promising minds.

      These minds may have been working on a pen in their formative years, but as they matured, they would be ripe pickings for someone setting up their own space transit organization.

      Thus, the notion of simplicity taking presidence might work in the short term, but generally doesn’t favour the long. Example of this being that Russia can still send men to the space station with its simple rocket system; America has several private companies hoping to accomplish the same goal for a fraction of the cost.

      In time, the private entities will surely win out, leaving the Russians to either try and copy or cease their highly costly missions. In that case, who’ll have won? Simplicity or complexity?

      • Richard,
        I had a great discussion with Kyle about this recently (as per the Graham interview)–on the topic of “how fun/crazy projects things can lead to unexpected benefits down the line”. A.K.A unintended positive consequences from non-prioritized tasks.

      • The issue here is language. The everyday usage of the word complex is different to what is discussed here.

        Something is complex or simple depending on the context. So we’re comparing apples and oranges here. The equation for general theory of relativity is “complex” (everyday language), but it is the simplest method for explaining the phenomenon of relativity. If there was a simpler equation we would have scrapped the old one.

        So, the Americans had more complex systems because they had broader objectives and a greater budget, not because they chose to achieve a simple objective in a complex way.

        So if you have a “complex” set of objectives (like economic growth), your solution will be “complex” (as per everyday language), but it should be simplest solution for achieving those objectives.

        P.S. The pencil story is a myth. The real story is that they BOTH used pencil from the very beginning for a while. The Americans then devised the pen as the shrapnel from the graphite was a big safety issue.

      • And on the topic of unexpected consequences. You can’t base your decisions on what you can’t ever know (except for minimising risk exposure as far as possible). You going to the gym could create a chain of events that causes World War 3. You NOT going to the gym could create a chain of events that causes World War 3. But you go to the gym because it serves your objectives

    • Great example, Shaun!

      –Just goes to show that university education fails brutally to teach fundamental principles. At least mine did.

      “I immediately realised my mistake and avoided persian messenger syndrome by making up benefits for their method and calmed them down. “

      –Very smart.

  9. Anonymous says:

    I use the 80/20 principle for even this article….just pick through a couple rules and I should be more than good :)

  10. I’ve been practising a lot of #7 recently. I’ve even met up with a few people 1-1 over the course of about a week to do so! I figured I’ve been cooped up at home quite a bit lately as well.

    I like your secret treasure for sure. And I like what you’ve been doing to the design of your blog too btw. Except for the background – I prefer a slightly darker shade. No big deal there anyway, I’m coming back to read regardless.

    • Nice to hear.

      How is the piano playing going by the way?

      • If you’re referring to my YouTube, it’s going pretty well so far. Stats are looking good. I’ve even managed to attract some Skype students from the videos, which is cool too. Apart from that, yes, the albums are still on the way. It’s my first time doing it, and I really messed up the process. But at least I know what to do from then onwards. Apart from the albums, there’s gonna be a website with some music related resources coming up. Lots of things planned.

        Thanks for asking by the way!

        Btw, someone at the comments section called me a robot, and I immediately thought of you (people calling you a machine). Haha. I guess that’s a good thing, I’m super big on consistency.

    • Whoa dude, I just came back to read some comments and was pleasantly surprised with the new background! Impressive. Don’t know if you’re still playing around with different ones, but I love the way it is now.

  11. Curious Keith says:

    Failure to use Occams razor + “what price will you pay” = airports, clubs and other public locations where people stand in line forever for bathrooms, instead of considering alternatives and looking for another bathroom. How’s that for applying this stuff in daily life? :)

  12. Thought-provoking as usual Sir Sunstrom.

    Here’s an example of principle #1 occams razor I thought of now.

    Start with the simplest assumption first:
    If your life sucks, instead of buying-into conspiracy theories that it’s the Illuminati that are holding you back from succeeding, you ought to assume that your understanding of what it takes to become successful is flawed.

  13. Great stuff, should be required reading for every man under 30.

    Here’s another good principle for you and fellow SGM readers: “Never go with the first idea when it’s important.”

    Because your first notion is rarely the best one. So don’t rush things more than you must. Yes, speed and execution are imperative to most strategies, but when it really matters that you make the right choice, a bit of delay can be acceptable. In any case, it is your job as the leader and decision-maker to first deduce what type of situation you’re dealing with. (As you refer to with loser’s game vs winner’s game).

    When you are responsible for high-level decisions, as in many top managerial positions, this is a must.

  14. Another excellent post, Ludvig. Funnily enough the most relevant points for me are the first two. I’ve been quite sick with pneumonia over the last few weeks and it’s meant that my training has had to be put on hold. Your post is the kick in the ass I need to get back into it now that I’m at full health.

    As much as I love bodybuilding, it must feel good to be at that point of near-perfect and only requiring maintenance. Looking forward to that day in my future.

    Your other points are also gold as well; looking forward to applying those to my life too.

    Thanks again for the motivation.

  15. A friend forwarded me this article, and I really enjoyed.

    • Just subscribed and checked out your ebooks quickly, thanks for giving so much helpful advice for free!

  16. Fucken hell that was awesome. I have no constructive feedback at all but praise aplenty. Another excellent article my friend. Skitbra kompis!

  17. Crazily useful information here, Ludvig. #4 is the one principle that has helped me most in my every day decision making and that principle can also be used for most decisions. I’ll make sure to revert back to these principles the next time I have a major decision to make :D

  18. Jessica says:

    You should consider starting a fitness site / selling a fitness-based product / do fitness videos on youtube. You could make some nice money doing that, with all the garbage out there.

    • Thanks for the suggestions. It is possible you’re right, but what is there to say? Lift weights. Eat healthy. Fast. Push through the plateau. Maximize mental focus and inject emotional intensity. Have fun. Repeat.

  19. I have a twist to #4: personal mission statement. By constant referring to it I put it in my subconscious and it filters everything according to the set of rules I included in my mission statement. I don’t have to think about it. It just happens.

    • Nice. This is what I do with, for example, principles like these ones. Gotta brainwash yourself with quality info.

      Also, feel free to “steal” my fitness idea. I’m sure it would be very lucrative.

  20. On the topic of legacy here is my favourite example it is that of Gurbhash Chahal:

    – Poor Indian family – Immigrant in America
    – Founded ClickAgents at age 16, sold it for 22 million USD when he was 18
    – Founded BlueLithium at age 22, sold it to Yahoo in 2007 for 300 million USD when he was 26
    – Founded RadiumOne at age 26 and remained CEO
    – Barack Obama donor, wrote a bestseller book, Oprah appearance

    what an amazing track record for someone that young. And all this ruined in 5 minutes:
    – He beat up his girlfriend in a public place full of cameras.

    It takes a lifetime to build a world class reputation and 5 minutes to ruin it

  21. This is quite insightful Ludvig,
    Following these principles will really improve anyone’s life positively.

    I first read about the Pareto principal 2 years ago and that’s really wonderful.

    Most us usually do a lot everyday while achieving little to nothing at the end of the day. And this is because we usually focus on less important tasks.

    Someone once told me that you can be very very busy without being productive. This is so true. You’ll see somebody sweating I mean, it’s very obvious that he is very busy but when you check the output, it’ll be nothing to write home about.

    I really agree with all these principles man.

    Thanks for sharing.

  22. Thanks for this, it’s an invaluable asset to be applied to everyday living.

  23. Good article, especially the part about the winner’s and loser’s game. Perhaps the term “loser’s game” doesn’t exactly fit, seeing how it’s a winning strategy. A more apt description would be conservative vs risky.

  24. Brilliant article mate! I especially like the ROI principle as I am a huge proponent of the abundance-mindset vs. the scarcity mindset — the value of this decision/purchase/investment vs. the cost.

    Great article and content – this is the content that the internet needs more of!

    Cheers mate –

    Matt Kohn

  25. I had to double check there for a minute to make sure I wasn’t on Tim Ferriss’s blog, nice in-depth blog post.

    “So, instead, I did a systems recovery and restarted my computer a few times” – Now you’re almost an IT expert. ;-)

    Logical thinking has never failed me, except perhaps with women, but I could definitely do with a little more focus in my life. I’m hoping meditation will help me with that.

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