How You Feel When Talking to Certain People

It’s funny how I never noticed this before, but it feels different when I talk to different people. When I say it out loud, it sounds completely obvious, and yet, I wasn’t really aware of it until just a few hours ago.

For some people, I feel like I can speak my mind, but not my emotions. For others, it’s the opposite and I can show a lot of emotions, but not the things I’m really thinking about.

When I talk to certain people, I feel like the conversation can feel rather tense and restricted, despite how friendly the other person is acting. In some cases, I might even have to feign friendliness just to not appear rude. In other cases, I’m actively looking for ways to get out of the conversation.

Some people are a joy to talk to, and even though there might not be much to talk about, you just enjoy being with them. Others might be less joyous to talk to, even though there are countless topics you could talk about or intellectually debate on for hours on end.

If you take the time to categorize the people you interact with based on how you feel when talking to them, it’s surprisingly easy to filter out who you should be spending more time with, though it probably shouldn’t come as a surprise. Either way, I shall be paying more attention to how I feel the next time I interact with others instead of just the contents of the conversation.

Lessons From Playing Really Bad Chess

I started playing really bad chess a while ago and noticed something interesting.

Whenever I tried to attack aggressively or force the AI to trade pieces, things usually end up badly for me, even if I’m attacking with an overwhelming advantage. At first, I thought it’s because of my lack of chess experience (it’s probably is) but after a while, I realized what it is. It’s because when I attack, I’m giving the AI the opportunity to strengthen its defense. Over time, it gets harder and harder to check.

Unless you attack with a sure-fire way of checkmating, you’re only helping your opponent strengthen their defense while you scatter your attacking pieces all over the board. What happens after your attack ends? Your opponent will be in a good position to counterattack, especially considering how scattered your pieces are after your overly aggressive attacks.

So, I started playing a bit more defensively. It turns out, building up your pieces and preparing them BEFORE you start checking your opponent, that really helps.

The opposite is also true, if you’re being aggressively attacked, stay calm and focus on defending. Unless your opponent already knows how to checkmate (in which case, you’ve already lost), the attacks will end eventually. And once it’s over, it’ll be your turn to attack. Except, don’t. Don’t be greedy, don’t get caught up in the moment, don’t just blindly attack. Prepare first, strengthen your position, and attack only when you’re ready.

Are You Fixing the Problem or the Symptom?

There was this story I heard a while ago, I believe it was from a TED talk somewhere, and it goes something like this:

Three friends were out taking a stroll by the bridge when one of them noticed several babies floating down the river.

Shocked by what they saw, the first friend started panicking and yelling for help. The second friend quickly took action and jumped down the bridge to save the babies one by one.

Seeing this, the first friend started to calm down and joins the second friend in rescuing the babies. But for every baby they saved, another one comes floating by. Meanwhile, the third friend decides to runs away.

“Where are you going? Don’t you see there are babies to be saved?” shouted the first friend.

“I’m following the river upstream to see who’s dumping all these babies into the river!” replied the third friend.

From a TED talk somewhere…

Sometimes, when we’re facing a problem, it’s all too easy to try and fix only the symptoms. It’s highly visible and you can get a lot of credit for it. Your house is on fire? Don’t worry, the firefighters are on the way! Another house on fire? More firefighters to the rescue!

But that’s not the problem, the real problem might be because the entire neighborhood has faulty electric wiring. Or it might be because it’s the hot and dry season and lots of houses keep flammable materials out in the open. Or maybe all the kids like playing with magnifying glasses in their backyard. Who knows? But you won’t know until you go upstream and investigate what the problem is.

If You Didn’t Have It, Would You Buy It?

Here’s a simple thought experiment. If you didn’t have the things you have right now, would you buy them?

Imagine if all your stuff were to disappear right now. But in exchange, you’re given a sum of money equivalent to the value of everything that’s gone and also the option to buy back whatever you want. So the question is, how much of your stuff would you want to buy back? Or rather, what wouldn’t you want to buy back?

As an example, let’s say three things disappeared. A brand new watch you bought for $100, an old pair of sneakers you bought for $100 when it was still new, and a broken beyond repair microwave oven you bought for $100 when it was still new. When those three things disappeared, you were given $95 for the watch, $10 for the sneakers, and $0.05 for the microwave oven. Would you spend $95 to buy back the watch, or $10 for the sneakers, and would you want to get that microwave oven back for $0.05?

Instead of wondering what you should get rid of when decluttering, it’s far easier to just pretend they’re all gone and start from nothing. If you have nothing right now, what would you buy? And if you wouldn’t buy it, why do you still insist on keeping it?

What It Means to Have Children

Something to think about when it comes to having children.

In the past, having children means more people to help out at the farm. It means having a higher chance of survival, both in the sense of having more people to defend the farm and having more people to run away, so the odds of someone surviving increases.

In the present, having children means taking a long-term investment on the future. It means paying for daycare and traditional schooling, spending extra on food and clothing, and tending to your child’s emotional and entertainment needs until your child is all grown up.

After 20+ years, your child will hopefully be able to earn a living and help look after you when you’re old. Or, they might just pay for your retirement home and live their own lives elsewhere. Or, they might end up as a Hikikomori. Who knows? There are lots of ways for this investment to play out, it depends on both the market condition and how well you’ve invested those 20+ years as a parent.

And in the future, having children might mean something totally different depending on how things play out from here on out.

In a recent New York Times article on the ramifications of a shrinking global population:

Many demographers argue that the current moment may look to future historians like a period of transition or gestation, when humans either did or did not figure out how to make the world more hospitable — enough for people to build the families that they want.

Surveys in many countries show that young people would like to be having more children, but face too many obstacles.

Anna Parolini tells a common story. She left her small hometown in northern Italy to find better job opportunities. Now 37, she lives with her boyfriend in Milan and has put her desire to have children on hold.

She is afraid her salary of less than 2,000 euros a month would not be enough for a family, and her parents still live where she grew up.

“I don’t have anyone here who could help me,” she said. “Thinking of having a child now would make me gasp.”

Given the current declining birth rates and the looming future of an ageing population, let’s hope humanity does figure out how to make the world more hospitable.

It’s not an easy problem to solve, in fact, it’s one of the harder problems we will be facing in the future. At least with the climate crisis, we have a solution and we mostly know what to do, we’re just not doing enough. With the ageing population crisis, we’re still trying to figure things out as the issue is massively complex.

Unlike the climate crisis which can be solved with science, solving the ageing population crisis requires understanding human psychology, culture, human behavior, politics, and an understanding of how society works.

But ignoring all that complicated stuff, what can you do to help? Well, I’m glad you ask! Just like how everyone can reduce (or eliminate) their carbon footprint to help with the climate crisis, everyone can just go have children and try to bring the birth rate up a bit. I know, easier said than done, but so far, it’s probably the best thing you can do to help.

Improvements in Hardware vs Software

“I can’t believe I have to fiddle around so much just to get this <insert tech stuff here> to work. It’s 2021, not 2001, everything should work seamlessly by now!”

Expecting things to be perfect just because it’s 2021 is a big mistake. Just because we are in “the future” relative to a decade or two ago, it doesn’t necessarily mean that everything is better. Sure, a lot has improved over the years. Storage used to be slow and expensive, RAM was still measured in megabytes back in the days, and things have definitely gotten a lot better. But that’s only on the hardware side, on the software side, that’s not exactly the case.

Think about it this way, with hardware, everything is done by the machine. To make a better/smaller/faster processor, you just need to build a machine that can fabricate chips at an increasingly smaller size. Each generation of computers, cameras, or monitors is always better than the last. More processing power, better quality pictures, higher pixel density, and so on.

But with software, everything is done by humans. To write better software, you need a team of software developers who can write better code than the developers before them, and that’s just not scalable. Sure, we might be able to use AI and machine learning to help, but ultimately, it’s the developers who have to write the code and test it to ensure there are no bugs. If you consider all the ways the product might be used (or misused), it is extremely difficult to make sure everything will work perfectly.

Even something simple like transferring files from one device to another can potentially be a huge headache. Why? Because of file systems. If you’re using Windows, try right-clicking on your C:\ drive and click on properties to see what file system you’re using. Chances are, it’s NTFS. Now try it with a USB drive, chances are, it’s probably FAT32. If you’re using macOS, your file system is probably APFS. If you’re on Linux, it’s probably ext4. What does all this mean? Ignoring the technicalities of all the different file systems, your operating system has to support reading and writing to those file systems if you want to transfer data across devices. This means if I have a USB drive, I can format it to ext4 and enjoy all the technical benefits of using ext4 over FAT32, but that would mean I can only access that USB drive on a computer running Linux since Windows doesn’t support ext4[*].

It’s the same concept with every piece of tech, the hardware is the easy part. Every HDD or SSD hard disk ever made is of the same mass-produced hardware. The same goes for Bluetooth, GPS, speakers, and so on[*]. But the software to utilize that hardware is very different depending on what the software developers wrote in the code. Sometimes, the code just works. Sometimes, it works but inefficiently or unreliably. There’s no guarantee that version 3 is better than version 2 because changes in the code can go both ways. We’re all human, after all, we make mistakes, and unlike hardware, there’s just no way for the code to improve so consistently over the years.

[*] – Disclaimer: Every mistake made in this post is my responsibility. To those who are more knowledgeable, please correct me if I’m wrong.

You and Your Alarm Clock

If you use an alarm clock, do you trust it to wake you up in the morning?

But before you answer, how did you interpret that question?

A. When you set an alarm, do you trust your alarm clock to go off at the right time?
B. When your alarm goes off, do you trust your alarm clock to ring loud enough to wake you up?
Or C. When you hear your alarm clock ringing, do you trust yourself to get up instead of hitting the snooze button?

I was always afraid of my alarm clock dying in the middle of the night and not going off the next morning. This is probably why I use my phone as my alarm clock and ensure it is sufficiently charged the night before. With the classic alarm clock, there’s just no way I could tell how much battery it has left, and with that uncertainty, I can never be sure that it will go off when I need it to.

But there were a few occasions where I completely slept through my alarm. Oddly enough, I don’t mind them at all. Aside from having to rush my morning and apologize for being late, I completely accept that it’s my fault and shrug it off. Yet, why am I so afraid of my alarm clock dying in the middle of the night and not going off when I need it to? Isn’t the end result the same?

It’s almost as if I’m telling my alarm clock, “It’s okay if I screw up and fail to wake up, but it’s not okay if you screw up and didn’t try to wake me up.” What’s with the double standard? From my alarm clock’s perspective, I must be a monster. Think about it, I tell my alarm clock to wake me up at 6am every day. But every day at 6am, I would grudgingly look at my alarm clock with disdain and hit the snooze button. What a thankless job my alarm clock has, and it has to deal with that kind of treatment every single day, how awful is that?

I wouldn’t want to work as my alarm clock, no way. But following this line of thinking, how can I make my alarm clock feel appreciated and what would my alarm clock’s dream job be like? An owner who sets a morning alarm and wakes up with a smile thanking the alarm clock? An owner who hardly snoozes or looks at the alarm clock with distaste? An owner who tolerates the alarm clock if it ran out of juice in the middle of the night?

Why don’t I try that? Why don’t we all give it a try and become better owners of our alarm clocks?

HT Steve Pavlina

How to Beat Depression

A funny thing happens when you stay in silence for too long. Your mind wanders off and you start thinking about life. You know, stuff from the past, old regrets, and the things you wish you would’ve done differently.

As you reflect on your life thus far, you feel yourself calming down, both in mind and body. It’s almost like falling into depression, as if nothing matters anymore. All your present worries and struggles just seem to disappear when you think about the past. I mean, why wouldn’t they? Nothing really matters anymore, not when all hope is lost. If you could just go back in time and fix all your mistakes, you wouldn’t be in this mess right now, or so you tell yourself.

And just like how you’re looking back at your past with regret, future you will do the same a few years down the line. Think about it, won’t all your current worries and struggles be nothing more than a passing memory for your future self? You know, stuff from the past, old regrets, and the things you wish you would’ve done differently.

As you anticipate your future self reflecting back on your current self, you feel yourself opening up with possibility. The future hasn’t happened yet, you can still change things before it’s too late. Or if it’s already too late, you can start recovering from it now and not regret not doing anything. I mean, from your future self’s perspective, you are back in time! You can fix everything so that future you won’t be in that unhappy mess anymore. Think about it, you can make future you happy and fix their depression! Aren’t you excited?

Two Tips to Improve Your Purchasing Decision

We live in a time where the average consumer has more choices than ever, and with such plentiful options, how do we decide which to pick or buy?

Hey, it’s AIAD, and today, we’re going to talk about purchasing decisions[*]. Now, we all know how difficult it is to choose what to buy. Say you’re in the market for a new laptop, there are literally hundreds of laptop models, each of them with its own unique specs and design. How are you going to decide which is the right one for you?

Your gut reaction might be to check out the reviews. You know, see what the average rating in Amazon is, read what famous laptop reviewers have to say about it, and let others help you decide. This is great and all, but before you let all these reviews influence you, do you even know what you’re looking for?

Tip #1: If you don’t know what you’re looking for, you’re just going to let marketers tell you what they think you should be looking for, which is often not be in your best interest.

Sure, you know you’re looking for a laptop. But why do you want a laptop? What do you actually care about and what specific features are you looking for? If you’re not sure, now’s the time to do your homework. Just like how no one goes to the supermarket to buy their “weekly dinner ingredients” without first knowing what they want to have for dinner next week[**], you should absolutely know what you want before you buy anything. If you don’t, you’re just going to let the sellers and marketers tell you what they think you should buy. Like what Tynan said:

No matter how I start the buying process, I try to establish what factors I actually care about before doing my research. These may change as I go if I learn something new, but if you don’t start knowing what you’re looking for you’re more susceptible to letting sellers tell you what you should care about, which is often not in your best interest.

Ask yourself questions like what do you plan to use your new laptop for? What are the three most important features you’re looking for and why? Which features are nice to have and which features do you not care about? Instead of a laptop, are there any other alternatives, i.e. desktops or tablets, that are also up for consideration? How many years do you plan on keeping it before you upgrade? Do you want something cheap and affordable to use in the short term or are you looking for a long-term solution?

It’s only after you’re clear on what you want, that’s when you should start looking at what’s available in the market. Sometimes, depending on your needs, the top most recommended laptops may not be the best fit for you, and the ones where reviewers are feeling lukewarm about may be just what you need.

Tip #2: Once you’ve decided on what you want and found something that fits your needs, the last step is to consider the cost. How much money do you think it’s worth?

Most people confuse this with setting a budget, a budget is how much you’re willing to spend on something. This is the complete opposite, it’s how much you think that something is worth. Do you think the benefits of having a laptop is worth its price? If you had to choose between buying a laptop for $X and spending $X on something else you care about, say home improvement or upgrading your camera gear, which would you choose? In Tynan’s words:

In the last phase of my buying process I consider what I would pay for the purchase and whether it would be worth it and provide more value than I could get by spending that money in other areas.

And that’s it guys, two tips to help you improve your purchasing decisions. Let me know what you think in the comments section below, whether you agree or disagree, and how you typically make your purchasing decisions. I hope you found it insightful and I’ll see you again next time[***].

[*] – Why does it sound like I’m talking to you in a YouTube video? Who knows, maybe I can convert this blog post into a video script and record it someday?

[**] – Disclaimer: You can totally do it though, I’ve done it many times and I think quite a number of people do it too.

[***] – Yeah, this definitely sounds like a YouTube video. Maybe I should also add “If you like what you see, please like and subscribe for more future content” or something.

Netflix’s Keeper Test or Next Jump’s Lifetime Employment Policy

At Netflix, managers use the Keeper Test to decide who to fire. The test itself is very simple, managers simply ask themselves one question. “If someone in my team was thinking of leaving for another firm, how hard would I fight to keep them from leaving?” If the answer is not at all, they will be offered a generous severance package and let go shortly afterwards. Netflix’s company philosophy is to see employees as a team as opposed to a family.

If you think of a professional sports team, it is up to the coach to ensure that every player on the field is amazing at their position, and plays very effectively with the others. We model ourselves on being a team, not a family. A family is about unconditional love, despite, say, your siblings’ bad behavior. A dream team is about pushing yourself to be the best teammate you can be, caring intensely about your teammates, and knowing that you may not be on the team forever.

We have no bell curves or rankings or quotas such as “cut the bottom 10% every year.” That would be detrimental to fostering collaboration, and is a simplistic, rules-based approach we would never support. We focus on managers’ judgment through the “keeper test” for each of their people: if one of the members of the team was thinking of leaving for another firm, would the manager try hard to keep them from leaving? Those who do not pass the keeper test (i.e. their manager would not fight to keep them) are promptly and respectfully given a generous severance package so we can find someone for that position that makes us an even better dream team. Getting cut from our team is very disappointing, but there is no shame. Being on a dream team can be the thrill of a professional lifetime.

This is the complete opposite of Next Jump where don’t fire anyone, ever. Instead of seeing employees as team members, they see them more as family members. Just like how you wouldn’t fire your kids or siblings because of poor family finance, they have a Lifetime Employment Policy and won’t fire anyone.

We don’t hire employees, we adopt family members. We don’t fire at Next Jump, we coach. See Simon Sinek’s talk mentioning our Lifetime Employment Policy.

On one hand, you have a company that operates more like a sports team and tries to build the best possible team. On the other hand, you have a company doing the exact opposite and treats employees as family members. Which one would you rather work for?