Mind Sprites

Inspired by Becoming a Magician by Autotransluscence

​By investing in ourselves whether our intentions are selfish or altruistic the world creates a result which looks the same on paper. The future you has more resources to share. In the massive multiplayer game of life you are leveling up:
  1. The ability to entertain or inspire
  2. Knowledge to make or heal
  3. The means to build or give
  4. A wildcard: physical or mental strength and energy to recursively feedback into the engine. Exhaust as fuel. Mechanically that’s the way a turbocharged engine actually works.
Aiming to complete a marathon is not about joy or the experience. It’s the story you tell yourself about the kind of person you can become. You want to become the kind of person that can finish a marathon. Imagine what else that person can do. Just imagine.

The quest is underway

Look at the mechanism that kicks off once you set out to train. There’s an unsaid fantasy:  I am going to be Me 2.0. The finish line will be a signal that the new you has arrived. The goal ain’t the thing, it’s a proxy for the thing. As urgently as you want to be the better thing, you will fixate on the proxy.

In your desperate pursuit, the unsaid vision of future you propels you forward. It builds an invisible audience in your mind. It cheers when you make good time on your practice run. It boos when you skip a session because you were out late the nite before. That audience is like lane assistance on your car, correcting your path when you veer.

That subconscious audience exerts a lot of influence for a bunch of nameless mind sprites. Their whispers are your self-talk. Their shouts are your self-doubt. You’re chasing a proxy and that’s ok. But beware to inspect your vision and don’t let its sprites into the game without a ticket.

Adjust your mirrors

Who does your fantasy future self serve?

What are the values of that future self?

Are you sure you want to conjure an audience for it?

The people you surround yourself in real life will also act as lane assistance. We commonly hear how we are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with. They are your real-life audience. Their mindsets are contagious. Their optimism, pessimism, energy, and honesty are subconscious benchmarks. Think carefully about this. Are they nudging you towards the right course?

If I’m wrong about this it’s because I’m underestimating their influence.

Setting milestones

The small challenges en route should feel just slightly out of reach. The final destination should be uncomfortably ambitious. This compensates for the fact that we overestimate what we can do in the near term and underestimate what we can do in the long term.

A small change in initial conditions can result in a wide error in the point of arrival. The course correction tweaks along the way cannot overcome an angle of incidence that was wildly off the mark. Just ask a sailor.

How I Use Twitter

Stay connected on your terms

With the ashes of the information explosion layered miles high, modernity rewards people who know the effective ways to search the soot for the surviving insights. Knowing a lot about something in demand secures you place in the machine (for now), there may be more leverage today in knowing how to know things. Supply and demand is the force of gravity in the non-physical world. If the supply of information is abundant the bottleneck is in the questions. Give thought to abstracting how you learn things. The direct questions are frontal attacks. Learn to flank.

Crowdsourcing is the peace dividend of interconnectedness. Curation via tokenized reputations and customer reviews. Google’s Pagerank algorithm crowdsources search by ranking links by how likely it matches what people were looking for. Nextdoor brings you into word-of-mouth conversations that you may have been missing out on before.Hands-on example: Twitter

  • Twitter is a fantastic platform to explore niches if you learn to use it effectively. I have learned so much from “Fintwit” (financial twitter) despite being a finance professional. Start following people that you like and as you read conversations you discover who else you like and before long you can, without their permission, find a tribe to teach and challenge you.
  • I have helped several people to discover and benefit from a thoughtful approach to Twitter. My 2 main techniques:
    • Use curated lists related to topics. You can subscribe to any of my lists and think of them as customized feeds. Make your own or find the lists of other “Tweeps” you may like.
    • On desktop use Tweetdeck. It uses your Twitter credentials and allows you to see column-based feeds filtered by a list, a hashtag, a user, or other dimensions. Here’s a snapshot of my Tweetdeck.
  • I don’t post much but I do engage conversations sometimes. Twitter is a very entertaining and clever ecosystem. If you want a field guide to the Twitter prairie, check out Alex Danco’s playful analysis. Learn what it means to “get ratio-ed”.
  • If you are able to generate a following, one of the greatest tools afforded to you is the ability to crowdsource the answer to questions from a sharp community. Remember, you can follow anyone, unlike LinkedIn. You can always @ someone’s handle but to DM somebody they must follow you. I have seen people expertly crowdsource insightful business questions. I recommend following people who exploit this power so you can “draft in their lanes”.
  • If you don’t have a following (I do not), remember that crowdsourcing skill can be best rewarded on Reddit. Why is Reddit better than most internet forums? The top entries on the page are not the most recent but the most “upvoted”. Unlike Twitter, you may not “know” the respondents so it can be difficult to calibrate the value of the replies. The trade-off is you don’t need a following, instead, you must ask the right question in the right way to get responses and upvotes. A game in itself.

Idea Triage Model, Part I: Objectives

Introduction

A friend of mine who knows I am pretty OCD organized asked me if I have a system for centralizing the content I consume. He was mostly focused on blogs and videos but it prompted me to think about how I conceptualize my entire information stack. If you are an infovore you hopefully have a system that outperforms a bouquet of 50 open browser tabs and colored Post-It notes taped to your monitor. But what does it even mean to say your system “outperforms”?

It depends on your objectives. Let’s start there.

Objectives of a personal info management system

I’ve been thinking about how I organize info since my days of using an iGoogle homepage. I used to take notes in Gmail and used Google Keep to hold to-do lists. Since then my system has evolved to serve 3 key needs.

1. Automatically filter sources

A connected world with essentially zero marginal transmission costs means information is free. It actually wants to be free if you believe Stewart Brand. Information abundance is electricity’s latest big fat dividend to you. This dividend does come with its own rider. You must dote on everything that you know is out there but haven’t seen. FOMO. It’s a battle for your attention and the beeps and notifications on your phone are its weapons. Smart phones with smart bombs. Your defense is well tuned curation. Who to follow on social media, what blog feeds to subscribe to, Spotify and Netflix profiles that invite desired recs.

2. File selected content for future reference

Your Chrome bookmarks are probably a dumpster fire. Go ahead, take a few hours — organize and prune it, agonize over folder names and what should nest under what. You still won’t reference it in the future. You’ll probably just google the thing you are interested in only to discover that you bookmarked it long ago. Bookmarks are not a system. At best, if you scan through them they remind you of something you might still care about. Instead, bisect filing into short term and long term notes. Short term filing is cheap and will look like caching the content to a to-do list. You will consume the content at a later time but there will be a placeholder or queue for it to reside until you have the chance to come back to it. If you consume it and its worthy of coming back to in the future to either use it, recommend it, or simply refresh yourself then it can be promoted to long term storage. But this promotion is not cheap. You are required to either take notes, highlight it, or somehow compress it so that you actively invest in it. It will have a better chance of being retained in your brain. It also keep your long term repository higher quality and more compact.

3. Retrieve content

It may seem obvious that you want to retrieve your notes or filed sources. But in thinking about the design of the file management system, it’s worth spelling out reasons you retrieve:

  • Teaching others
  • Writing for work or pleasure
  • Recommending a restaurant, attraction, or book. How many times have you drawn a blank when asked for a rec?
  • Surfacing research relevant to an argument at hand
  • Remembering pointers for how how to perform your workout or presentation
  • Maintaining to do lists
  • Researching a trip, a recipe, home project, financial plan
  • Affirmations or habits your are practicing to reinforce

Facilitating rapid and effective retrieval demands a proper mix of conceptual and technical features depending on the ultimate action you are retrieving for.

Conceptual Features

Search and scan ability

Storage needs to be both searchable and browsable. You will often remember a keyword that will help you find the note you created. Just as you search your email. But it’s equally important that your notes are browsable so you can scan your notes to jog your memory or resurface content that your past self thought was interesting. Browsability implies that the note hierarchy is collapsible. By nesting notes, the entire data structure is compact and more navigable. The number of layers is debatable and a matter of preference. As an example, I find Evernote to be a bit restricted (stacks, notebooks, notes) but serviceable.

Technical Features

Cloud based yet exportable

You will need to store and retrieve anytime, anywhere. Fortunately most tools these days will be cloud based. However, apps come and go so the ability to export is non-negotiable. Turnover at Evernote’s parent company in 2018 prompted a rash of articles about how to back up and export your notes in the event that they went bk. You don’t want to be at the complete mercy of your cloud-based app. You may also want to the ability to access your notes when offline. Airplanes come to mind here. Device/desktop sync should be mostly seamless. I’ve seen some glitchy behavior in modern apps (for example notes being duplicated or briefly invisible during an unusually long refresh) but these should be relatively rare exceptions or the app will be to frustrating to stick with.

Fast, clean design

These apps will be some of your most heavily used so the experience should be inviting. It should be consistently fast. Even brief moments of lag will become major annoyances once multiplied by your frequent use. There is some leeway here. Google Drive is probably too slow to keep to-do lists but its greater flexibility for handling more complex docs makes it a reasonable home for content notes or financial models. Your app’s maximum acceptable latency will be dictated by the fastest twitch activity its required to handle.

Next

If you got this far, it is likely that you are considering your own objectives. It’s ok if they feel abstract at this point. In Part II of this series we will look at the conceptual design of my own system and what principles guide my objectives which can give you some clay to work with.

Go to Part II: Conceptual Design (pending)