In yesterday’s post, I presented a writing prompt.

What is something that causes you hesitation, but doesn’t seem to make sense? Something that perenially gives you pause, slows you down, and makes you apply effort to overcome. When you get past it, you wonder what it was that was actually so difficult, because surprisingly, it wasn’t. You promise yourself next time, you’ll just move through it. But it sneaks up on you again, and you fall into your old ways.

Five minutes…starting now!

I prefer to do things over text, email, or even instant messaging. When I deal with someone that prefers a phone call, or a face to face, I have a moment of pause. Weirdly, I feel the same way about a physical, handwritten letter.

This is even more unusual because I generally consider myself a clear and undisputed extrovert.

I think it is the pressure of synchronicity. With text or email, I can control the pace at which I respond, even if it is just a second or two more.

Taking a phone call usually is just a bit more pressure. There’s multi-dimensionality - tone, pace, diction - all convey something about you. And that pressure to be on your toes, because you need to respond in real time. In a way, you are committing to give someone your full attention.

Which to a perennial multitasker like me, that “must commit” sense, that gives me just a pause and edges me in the other direction.

What is that hesitation to commit? That trivial loss of optionality?

A fear of failure. A fear of not being able to do other things. A hesitation to commit may come from a fear of making the wrong choice.

Think about high-stakes decisions.

You may know in your gut pretty clearly what the right choice is.

But you’ll probably want to stop to think about it, just given the importance and irreversible consequences of that decision.

Except that’s an overreaction in the cases we’re talking about.

This could manifest from at least two sources:

  • General overreactivity
  • Having been punished harshly for past “failures” - especially small and inconsequential ones

The irony is that we take harsh lines (usually we are our own harshest critics) thinking that will lead to growth. In fact it has the opposite effect.

True growth is hampered by inaction. Reducing the barriers to action increases the rate of action. Higher rate of action translates to more iterations, and more data points. This is what will give you the highest resolution data about how something works, and how to improve your own decision making heuristic.

Imagine training a machine learning model on a set of 1000 data points. What if you reduced the barrier to acquiring more data points (taking more action) ten-fold?

Which model would be better? The one that trained on 1000 data points, or the one that trained on 10000? While this is not an absolute metric, it is a general rule that probably makes most learning models better, including the one in our own minds.