Making a gift of a curse

Humans have a tendency to believe without verifying and to accept without believing. This is a curse–we are easily tricked by things we see and hear.

This curse can be a gift if used right.

Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, is all for tricking our brains into accepting beliefs that drive productive behavior. Here’s an example he gives.

Each unnecessary word = $100

As resume experts will tell you, a crisper resume is a better resume. Tell yourself you will make $100 for every word you trim off your resume. You’ll be surprised by how much fat you burn. And the hundreds of dollars you make.

Taking Adams’s cue, here are some things to tell yourself to be better at what you do:

👉Every hour of your time = $1000

👉Every skill you acquire 2X’s your odds of success.

👉You’re the average of the 5 people you spend most time with.

👉Getting 1% better every day means you’ll be 37X better by the end of the year.

👉Knowing one foreign language 3X’s your chances of finding a spouse in that country.

👉Every book you read in a domain cuts your time to read the next book in the same field by 50%.

What’s common to all these rules?

They are not scientific. The formulae are arbitrary. And in some cases, clearly untrue (for example, your hourly earnings). But they are all directionally right.

And by being simple they’re perfectly framed to trick your brain into believing them. Simplicity trumps accuracy.

Every new skill does improve your chances of success. Who you hang out with does make a difference. Being well-read does mean you digest books faster. If I just said these things to you, you would agree but not remember or practice them.

Getting the upside from being directionally right is a lot better than not getting any because you wanted to be accurate.



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Satyajit Rout

Satyajit Rout


I write about decision-making, mental models, and better thinking and things in between