How (and when) to think for yourself

How (and when) to think for yourself
5. General

How (and when) to think for yourself

Welcome to the twenty-ninth edition of ‘3-2-1 by Story Rules‘.

A newsletter recommending good examples of storytelling across:

  • 3 tweets
  • 2 articles, and
  • 1 long-form content piece

Let’s dive in.

🐦 3 Tweets of the week

Our names are often given by others (sometimes by foreigners who may even be our enemies) – and yet we are deeply attached to them.

Fascinating. I recently also learned that Tamil (and other languages from South India and South east Asia) have descended from Brahmi.

Listen to your customers, but not too much!

📄 2 Articles of the week

a. Why You Are Probably An NPC (And what to do about it) By Gurvinder Bhogal

Gurvinder writes about how humans are increasingly outsourcing their thinking to others and becoming NPCs (Non-Playing Characters):

It’s getting ever harder to distinguish humans from bots, not just because bots are becoming more humanlike, but also because humans are becoming more botlike.

​As knowledge of human psychology evolves, algorithms become better at shaping human behavior. Step onto social media and you’ll see the same groups of people getting outraged by the same kinds of things every single day, like clockwork.

​The rise of botlike behavior over the past decade has led to the creation of a meme: the NPC, or Non-Player Character.

It’s not surprising why this is happening – our brains are conditioned to use ‘System 1’ and avoid the cognitive load of using ‘System 2’:

… the brain is commonly regarded as a thinking machine, but it’s more often the opposite: a machine that tries to circumvent thinking. This is because cognition costs time and calories, which in our evolutionary history were scant resources.

As such, the brain evolved to be a “cognitive miser” that operates according to the principle of least effort, taking shortcuts in thinking and perceiving that build a workable but hugely simplified (and cost effective) model of the world.

He then goes on to classify the different types of NPCs and rounds up with some useful advice at the end:

Ultimately the real crime of NPCs is not that they cheat their way to forming beliefs, but that they feel the need to have such beliefs at all. Trying to form an opinion on everything leaves them no time to have an informed opinion on anything.

​The solution is to divide issues into tertiary, secondary, and primary.

​Tertiary issues are those you don’t need to care about: the overwhelming majority of things. Consider what difference it will make whether or not you know something, and if it won’t make a difference, resolve to not have an opinion on that thing. Don’t even take a shortcut to beliefs about it. Just accept that you don’t know.

​Secondary issues are things that interest you, but which you don’t need to get exactly right. On these issues you must take shortcuts, so take the best shortcut there is: adversarial learning. Seek out the best advocates of each side, and believe whoever is most convincing. If that’s too much work, get your news from websites like AllSides or Ground News that allow you to see what each side is saying about an issue.​

Primary issues are the ones you care about most, the ones you’re determined to get right. Use the time you’ve saved from ignoring tertiary things and taking shortcuts to secondary things to learn everything there is to know about primary things.

b. Jawan review by Sukanya Varma on Rediff

Reading movie reviews (and other articles in the ‘Movies’ section) on is my guilty pleasure. More than the movies themselves, sometimes I look forward to reading the reviews by Raja Sen (no longer with them now) and Sukanya Varma.

This one by Sukanya on Jawan clearly shows her as an SRK fangirl:

Shah Rukh Khan responding to criticism through his movies is a triumphant act.

​When they said he’s playing the same version of Raj and Rahul over and over again, he parodied his romantic monotony and signature pose to hilarious results in Om Shanti Om.​

When they bullied him and called for his boycott and played dirty, divisive politics, he fought hate with Pathaan’s patriotism of love that had India swarming to theatres in thundering unison.

Being a Shah Rukh fanboy myself, I say – Go girl!

Some people might find this line below a bit long and overwrought – but for me, it pulsates with rhythm. I especially like her smart use of alliteration.

Where Pathaan was a celebration of his legacy, a moment of overwhelming reassurance from and for SRK, Jawan, where he’s accompanied by a battery of women, reiterates he’s got the audience wrapped around his finger in a high-octane political drama that compensates for its lack of sharps and slyness with oodles of swagger, style and soft barbs at the system.

🎤 1 long-form listen of the week

a. The ultimate guide to JTBD – Bob Moesta on the Lenny Rachitsky podcast

Jobs to be Done (JTBD) is a useful framework that every entrepreneur (and leader) should study. Pioneered by the legendary Clayton Christensen, it offers guidance on how you can build products and services that truly delight customers by focusing on the context of their need (and not the features of your product).

In this conversation with Bob Moesta (co-creator of the framework), Lenny explores several examples of the use of this framework and discerns some useful principles for users.

Here’s an evocative example used in the conversation:

Bob: A simple example is think of Snickers and Milky Way, right? They’re both candy bars, they’re both bought in the checkout aisle, they’re both made almost with the same ingredients, one has peanuts, one doesn’t. And if you start to compare the products and do a competitive benchmark, you start to get to one’s a little softer, one’s a little harder, one’s got a few more calories, one’s got less calories. But when you talk to people about when’s the last time they ate a Snickers, when time’s the last time they ate a Milky Way, you start to realize that Snickers typically is a case where they missed the last meal, they’ve got a lot of work to do, they’re running out of energy and they want to basically get back to the tasks as fast as possible. And so you start to realize that Snickers is about almost like a meal replacement and it’s about the stomach is growling and things like that. And you start to realize that if they didn’t have a Snickers, it competes with a protein drink, it competes with a Red Bull, a coffee.​

But a Milky Way typically is eaten after an emotional experience, could be positive, could be negative. It’s usually eaten alone, and it’s taking time to regroup after this emotional thing. And you start to realize that it competes with things like a glass of wine, a brownie, and to be honest, a run. And so when you start to realize that, jobs helps you see the true competitive set from what we call the demand side of the world as opposed to the competitive set from the supply side of the world, which is the technology or the underlying business model by how which we’re making it. And so it allows you to actually see what customers really want as opposed to trying to figure out, how do we sell things to people?

That’s all from this week’s edition.

Photo by Chela B. on Unsplash

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