8 min read

Newsletter 03/22/22

A post touching on maintaining habits without external tools such as coaches. Some interesting thoughts from Farnam Street (a blog catering to people working on Wall Street) as well as some personal reflection.

As my life gets a bit busier, the less content I am able to consume. Also, quite a few of my 'healthy' habits have taken a bit of a hit. Although, I have started going to the gym (almost everyday the past few weeks), I haven't been as on top of my writing and reading. I haven't gone on a run in a very long time. Something that I realize, however, is that I don't feel too bad about this. For one, there are other ways to learn including through meaningful conversations and films. Secondly, given the amount of content I have consumed this past year, I think it is okay to give things a moment to sit.

What concerns me a little, is that I don't want this small break to turn into one that spans several years. I think that I have a tendency to leave 'self-care' things behind, and that just isn't good.

Topic 1:

As mentioned above, something I have been thinking a lot about this past week has been the importance of leisure or personal activities (I actually don't really like the word leisure because it implies that these things aren't work). But more than just pursuing them, I think that it is important to do so with the right mindset. I think that a few years ago, I would largely justify doing things like going to the gym or writing to myself by saying that these activities could further my career in some way. But the problem with this method of thinking about things, is that the moment that something else comes up like a test or exam, which is more directly linked to professional development, I would drop these personal interests (and often not pick them back up).

I have come to recognize, and this may seem obvious, that while pursuing personal interests may turn into an opportunity for professional development, I must first ensure that the thing I am doing is of personal interest to begin with: that is, I find some intrinsic meaning or fulfillment in doing it.

Topic 2:

If you have read last week's post, you probably understand why Kashmir has been occupying much of my thoughts for the past little while.

I think that if you want to learn a little bit more about Kashmiri history and politics, something you should definitely read up on is Article 370 in the Indian Constitution. One of the reasons why Kashmiri Pandits have advocated so fiercely for its abrogation is due to the fact that if a Kashmiri Pandit women chooses to marry a non-Kashmiri, she will lose her Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) citizenship, and will no longer be able to buy new property or be able to claim ancestral land. Moreover, anyone who is not or no longer a citizen of  J&K, can no longer buy property there. This is incredibly problematic given that in exodus from Kashmir, it is more likely that a Pandit women will marry someone who does not carry a Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) state subject.

While men and their descendants (specifically their sons, unmarried daughters, or daughters married to another pandit male) don't lose this privilege immediately, given a couple of generations living outside Kashmir, it becomes more difficult and less attractive for pandit descendants to fight to claim J&K citizenship as they have established themselves elsewhere and no longer feel connected to their ancestral home.

Panun Kashmir is an organization that advocates for the return of Kashmiri Pandits to their homeland. They speak about this issue in more detail.

Topic 3:

On a lighter note, another topic that has crossed my mind has been atmosphere. 3 weeks ago, I got a membership for LA Fitness. Unlike other gyms, I immediately felt a very strong sense of community, everyone was engaged in conversation; people even walked up to me and said hi! Everyone was also roughly my age. The gym also has big windows looking out onto a busy urban street. It just made me happy.

So far, I have really only taken three days off. It has almost automatic for me to get out of bed and go crank out a workout.

I think we have all had the experience where we decide to get a gym membership, or to take up running or any other form of fitness; we are consistent for the first couple of days, weeks, or maybe even months if are super determined, but then other commitments get in the way, our routine gets messed up by a trip and then we stop altogether.

I think that a big reason why we stop doing this stuff is because our reasons for doing them are not good enough. I don't think looking better, or even getting more fit is a good reason to go to the gym. I don't think trying to get smarter is a good reason to read more. I think that in order to stick to things, we need to enjoy them for what they are. We should want to get better at exercises. We should want to know what happens in the next chapter.

I think while atmosphere is helpful, it isn't anywhere near enough to keep us coming back. Neither is getting an accountability coach or trainer. Because even if we show up because they tell us too, we won't be 100% present. And eventually, we will feel like this thing that we were trying to do to make ourselves 'better' actually makes us worse in life overall, because it starts to suck and thus, becomes draining.

Topic 4:

Something I was thinking about was the changes in the size of my world. Atul Gawande notes in Being Mortal, that when people are in their teens and early their worlds are continually becoming larger. However, as individuals age, their worlds become smaller, they are less interested in forging new relationships.

In reflecting on my gap year, I had initially thought that my world had shrunk. I came home from university and was living at home. But then I realized that in university, I was largely talking to the same 4-5 people regularly and had a broader circle of maybe 10-15 peers. This was already a small bunch, and I didn't even like a few of them. I should preface, this isn't in anyway their fault, its just that our interests and personalities didn't really align.

In my gap year, by choosing to try out a couple of new activities to explore some previously ignored interests , I was able to meet people from many different scopes of life: older, younger, people who didn't choose to go to university. In addition, I also forged deeper connections with old friends.

More importantly, I got to know myself better, and I think the people around me saw that.

Topic 5:

Data Driven Content Insights

BuzzSumo is a cool site. It basically tells you what titles and topics are trending, and which content creators attract the most people within a given category. Its pretty cool.

Topic 6:

Lastly, I want to talk about mental models and circles of competence. I've been reading a bit of Farnam Street.

Circles of Competence: Each of us, through experience or study, has built up useful knowledge on certain areas of the world. Some areas are understood by most of us, while some areas require a lot more specialty to evaluate.
Mental Models: Mental models are how we understand the world. Not only do they shape what we think and how we understand but they shape the connections and opportunities that we see. Mental models are how we simplify complexity, why we consider some things more relevant than others, and how we reason. Thus, a mental model is simply a representation of how something works. We cannot keep all of the details of the world in our brains, so we use models to simplify the complex into understandable and organizable chunks.

A quick reflection: mental models are essentially an example of heuristic thought. By contrast algorithmic thinking which breaks every piece of information we perceive down to first principles is far too taxing for constant usage.

The extent to which we rely on mental models is based, in part, on incentives. Basically, if a model works for us in the past, we are going to try to use them in the future. For instance, in high school, if we study by cramming and succeed, we will continue to do this in university, even if we have heard that this isn't the most effective method for taking in content. We have come to understand studying as cramming and have been incentivized to maintain this point of view.

Lastly, mental models can be linked to healthcare. Here are some cool articles.

Assessing the similarity of mental models of operating room team members and implications for patient safety: a prospective, replicated study - BMC Medical Education
Background Patient safety depends on effective teamwork. The similarity of team members’ mental models - or their shared understanding–regarding clinical tasks is likely to influence the effectiveness of teamwork. Mental models have not been measured in the complex, high-acuity environment of the op…
Team mental models and their potential to improve teamwork and safety: A review and implications for future research in healthcare
The importance of team mental models (TMMs) – team members’ shared and organized understanding of relevant knowledge – for teamwork and team-performan…

Books I am Reading:

I haven't been making much progress, but honestly, I really don't feel like reading all that much at the moment. I'll get to it when I get to it.

The Communist Manifesto - Karl Marx

The Henna Artist - Alka Joshi

Capital in the 21st Century - Thomas Piketty

Walden - Thoreau

How to Stop Worrying and Start Living - Dale Carnegie

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