Why early wins matter

“Chester, I heard you are the guy to beat”, said my classmate.  Her statement came from the fact that in the first week of doing my master’s degree, I had finished reading one of the textbooks.  You see, I wanted to set an expectation of myself to be hard working and diligent.

Previous to starting the master’s degree, I had studied a little psychology, and had come across something known as cognitive dissonance theory.  The essence of cognitive dissonance is that people tend to act in a consistent manner.  By finishing reading the book on the first week, I was setting an expectation of myself to consistently act in such a disciplined manner.

This behaviour of performing exceptionally at the beginning of  a task, I call early wins.  One of the reasons, I kept blogging is simply because I had early wins.  In a time long ago, I had a blog with over 150k views and 100+ posts, but even before this, I had a blog post with over 30k views within my first ten posts.  I think this formed the impetuous for even further writing.

Benefits of early wins:

1.       Gives Hope – If you are undertaking something that is very demanding, having an early win can give hope that you can achieve the rest of your goal.

2.       Set Other’s Expectations – If you perform well, others will notice and will be expecting such future performance from you, and it is harder to let others down than yourself.  It’s also probably good to note that if people have poor expectations of you, you should probably move away from these people.  As with positive expectations, we also tend to live up to our negative expectations.

3.       Other’s follow your lead - Given that you are ahead of the pack, others will defer to your judgement in unsure situations.

67 Highlights From Susan Pinker's "The Village Effect: Why Face-to-face Contact Matters"

So, New Year's day I read one of the many unread books on my kindle.  What follows is my highlights on my kindle for the book: The Village Effect: Why Face-to-face Contact Matters.  I BOLD highlights that I found really interesting.

“John was rich in one important way: he had amassed a committed circle of friends, most of whom knew each other and regularly crossed paths— a feature of the most powerful and effective social networks.” 1

“Digital networks and screen media have the power to make the world seem much smaller. But when it comes to certain life-changing transformations, they’re no match for face-to-face.” 2

“If we don’t interact regularly with people face-to-face, the odds are we won’t live as long, remember information as well, or be as happy as we could have been.” 3

“women’s tendency to put a premium on their social connections is one of the main reasons they live longer.” 4

“Research shows that playing cards once a week or meeting friends every Wednesday night at Starbucks adds as many years to our lives as taking beta blockers or quitting a pack-a-day smoking habit.” 5

“Sardinian villages are the only places in the world where men live nearly as long as women. Everywhere else there is a gender gap in lifespan of about five to seven years.” 6

“Steve Cole and his team at UCLA discovered that social contact switches on and off the genes that regulate our immune response to cancer and the rate of tumor growth.” 7

“For example, if you’re surrounded by a tightly connected circle of friends who regularly gather to eat and share gossip, you’ll not only have fun but you’re also likely to live an average of fifteen years longer than a loner.” 8

“a quarter of Britons of all ages feel emotionally unconnected to others, and a third do not feel connected to the wider community.” 9

“The evidence tells us that about a third of us now feel lonely, sometimes acutely.” 10

The Importance of being Reliable

Have you ever known a store to sometimes stock what you require and it was nearby, but there is this distant store that always have what you need? I head straight to the store that is guaranteed to fulfil my needs even if it is farther away.  As humans, we gravitate towards things that will be working when we need them to.  Intuitively, we know we save time and money by going straight to a guaranteed source.  For this, we are even willing to pay a premium to get a certain amount of guarantee for a particular service.

Imagine playing chess, and somehow the pieces have emotions and the queen decided today that she doesn’t want to act like a queen, but instead wants to act like a pawn.  This is totally within her powers to do so.  The queen deciding only to play as a pawn just totally handicapped your game.  Likewise, not being reliable in the real world can make your life and others handicapped.

It’s clear that reliability is a good thing, but what should we be reliable for? It’s true we can’t be reliable for everything; I suggest you be reliable for one thing.  For instance, make it be known amongst your friends anything they are doing you are willing to support with your time; they can rely on you for this.  Being reliable in one area prevents you from being stretched too thin.  Also, it allows you become an expert in that area.

Let’s go back to the game of chess. You will find pieces with simple moves can form complex patterns/behaviours, so much so, that there are more possible chess games than all the atoms in the universe.  In a similar vein, you being reliable can fit into someone else’s complex scheme… and by and large gain the benefits of being in that scheme.

Forget about other’s schemes, what about your grand machination for success? My advice is have people roles in your life well defined, and well compensated.  Different adventurers in life requires different roles being fulfilled.  For instance, I don’t have transport, but there is a Taxi-man I could call and be most assured I get to where I want to go.  You are saying he is a Taxi-man; that is his job. And this is my point, give everyone a single explicit job with an explicit compensation [need not be financial].

The System made me

Have you ever tried to learn a foreign language outside of school? How did that work out for you? Are you now proficient in the second language as your native language? My best guess is that you haven’t. Now think about all the stuff you learnt in school, all the stuff you became proficient at because of the school system. I learnt Statistic, Pure Mathematics, Computer Science, Physics, Chemistry and a whole bunch of other stuff. The system made me.

When I say system, what do I mean? I mean structured activity with set time and place. System tends to be graduated with rules and punish for break those rules. Systems also, tends to rank its members and also reward high achieving members i.e members who best adhere to the system. My thesis is that engaging in systems is an easy way to gain proficiency in a field which would lead to success in that field, not the only way, but an easy way.

I was born into a very structured family. We went to church on Sundays, School during the week, Bring and buy on Saturdays, we got up around 6, went to bed around 8:30pm or near there. Now looking back, we were really structured. I remember neighbourhood kids laughing that we weren’t allowed to play on Sundays. I was born into this System, and it came as natural. It didn’t occurred to me to question the chains that was the system I was born into.

You will notice, that the activities we engaged in had a specific time and place, and they were repeated on a periodic basis whether weekly or daily. I never tried escaping the system to find out the consequence of going out of my Familial system. But, it would be reasonable to assume I would be spanked back into obedience to the system. So, yes the system did have punishment. Rank in the family was determine by birth order. Also, there were competition for academic success… my dad would reward us with $100 if we came 1st in Secondary School.

So, our family has all the hallmark of a good system; the chief of which was structure. Another good hallmark of a system is it incorporate other good systems. You will notice that the family system required me to engage in other systems such as the Church, School, and After Classes. I remember as a kid my grandmother telling me what Secondary School I should want to pass to, Antigua Grammar School. Antigua Grammar School, I would consider it to be in the top two schools in Antigua at the time I went, if not the top school. My point being good systems know other good systems and know the requirements of entering these systems.

At Antigua Grammar School we had structure, rules, reward and punishment. You had to be at class by 8am(I think, this was a while back) and school finishes at 1:30pm. Each class was a hour with 15 minute breaks somewhere in the day. For being late to class, you were either given a demerit, caning[six of the best] or sent to pickup garbage. There were five forms, from third form you were allowed to wear your shirt out of your pants, ie the system was graduated with recognition going to higher levels. Also, at the end of year top students were rewarded with a prize at the annual speech day. My point being Antigua Grammar School had the hallmarks of a good system.

Why do systems produce success

Social — Some members would realise that they would never be in top position to be reward. What’s in it for them to be a part of your system? The social aspect is sufficient enough for them to be a part of a system. Just imagine being Einstein best friend in University. Not only do they have a chance at being someone successful, they also have a chance at being friends with the highly successful people by engaging in your system. This keeps the system self-perpetuating. System produces highly successful members, potential members want to join because they can be highly successful too or be friends with highly successful people or both.

Feedback from success members — Hopefully, teachers and some of the students will have gain some measure of success in their field. From the information they gain they can direct the system as what it needs to do to ensure the success of future members of the system.

Obligation — system are good that require members to take desirable actions at a particular time, space and standard or face consequences of the short comings. In essence, obligation prevent members from slacking and also from quitting. Our school system was enforce by a legal requirement to attend until you are 16. Also, education is kinder of a social obligation too; it is required for jobs. Quitting a good system isn’t easy.

Rewards — Obligation only requires members to meet a standard, rewards drives members to go beyond anything any other member has done before. Rewards creates the super successful. Because there is competition for rewards, members will tend to want to out do each other, and in doing so set new bars for standards and expectations of the system.

Standards — Systems know what it takes to succeed after finish their system. They also recognize the survival of their system hinges on people being successful after their system is finished. In order to ensure the requirement for subsequent systems are met, they would need to keep standards high.