July 21, 2022
 min read

Mind Macros 26: Programming our brain, delayed intuition, and our future self

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Hello, friend.

Welcome to another issue of Mind Macros - I hope you find something of value.

Food for Thought

I. Our choices program our brains

Dopamine has been discussed in previous issues of Mind Macros, but as a refresher and summary for new members:

Dopamine is the chemical released in the brain in anticipation of and upon receiving rewards. Common activities that cause a release of dopamine include social media, junk food, sex, gambling, shopping, alcohol, nicotine, pornography, video games, and illicit drugs.

"In today’s dopamine-rich ecosystem, we’ve all become primed for immediate gratification. We want to buy something, and the next day it shows up on our doorstep. We want to know something, and the next second the answer appears on our screen. Are we losing the knack of puzzling things out, or being frustrated while we search for the answer, or having to wait for the things we want? The neuroscientist Samuel McClure and his colleagues examined what parts of the brain are involved in choosing immediate versus delayed rewards. They found that when participants chose immediate rewards, emotion- and reward-processing parts of the brain lit up. When participants delayed their reward, the prefrontal cortex—the part of the brain involved in planning and abstract thinking—became active. The implication here is that we are all now vulnerable to prefrontal cortical atrophy as our reward pathway has become the dominant driver of our lives."​ — From Dopamine Nation by Anne Lembke, MD (View my summary)

Our brains default to desiring instant pleasure when we choose immediate rewards over delaying gratification, causing the part of our brain associated with long-term planning to deteriorate. In essence, our choices are continuously programming our brains, minute by minute.

II. Practicing delayed intuition

"Practice delayed intuition. This is a phrase coined by the brilliant, Nobel Prize–winning economist and psychologist Daniel Kahneman to describe the simple concept that to make better decisions, you need to slow down. The more amazing an idea seems—the more it tugs at your gut, blinds you to everything else—the longer you should wait, prototype it, and gather as much information about it as possible before committing. If this idea is going to eat up years of your life, you should at least take a few months to research it, build out detailed (enough) business and product development plans, and see if you’re still excited about it. See if it will chase you." — From Build by Tony Fadell

Ideas have a way of tugging at the corners of consciousness, like a needy dog always wanting to play. Fadell uses starting a business as an example, but it could be anything. A common form of ideation is puzzling over a problem in our minds. Upon receiving a solution, one approach is to drop everything to pursue it. If the answer is quick to implement, no problem, but what if it's a strategy that we will adhere to for many months or a change of direction in life?

In these instances, delayed intuition can help us avoid wasting years of trial and error. This approach is different from procrastinating, as we're actively collecting information to inform our decisions. The problem itself will inform what type of data is required, but a commonly overlooked option is emailing former experts. Here are some guidelines:

Don't email the current big names in a field. Look for lesser-known stars or performers from a decade ago. In Athletics, this could be reaching out to past Olympic athletes, CrossFit champions, coaches, or those who failed to achieve professional status but still remain in the upper echelon of their sport. With the availability of information online, gauging their current workload would be beneficial. Many former athletes transition into coaching, so if big games are on the horizon, it may be best to wait until the cool-down season. Every industry has natural peaks and troughs, which you should take advantage of to increase your probability of receiving a response.

Rather than asking for best practices (like everyone else), ask them: what are the biggest myths, wastes of time, and harmful practices they hear in their profession? People dislike lousy advice in their domain, so questions that probe trigger points are more likely to get a response. Notice the wording of 'they hear,' not simply asking for the bad practices, but the ones they find grating. My favorite is asking for the best resources (often books) for studying the subject and following up with: if you had to teach yourself this skill from scratch (no contacts, experience, etc.), what would the curriculum look like? [1]

In writing, this could be sourcing new and up-and-coming authors, active on social media and Goodreads, and asking for a list of novices' most common mistakes. Other often forgotten roles in writing include the editors operating behind the scenes. Ask freelance editors the questions in the above paragraph, or hire them for a project to catch your common mistakes.

The perfect cold email with probing questions has a formula, but if you get it right, you'll be surprised at how many people respond. The Third Door by Alex Banayan documents his journey as an 18-year-old freshman performing cold outreaches to a number of big names. Banayan was a 'nobody' who landed interviews with Bill Gates, Maya Angelou, Steve Wozniak, Larry King, Tim Ferriss, Quincy Jones, and many more.

[1] These questions are paraphrased from a Tim Ferriss podcast.

Quotes to Ponder

I. Blaise Pascal on the importance of cultivating knowledge:

“What is important is not the quantity of your knowledge, but its quality. You can know many things without knowing that which is most important.”

II. Sam Harris on caring for your future self:

“Take a moment to think about your relationship to your future self. This is the person who is going to inherit the results of what you do or fail to do today. If you drink too much tonight, this is the person who will suffer the hangover tomorrow. If you neglect your primary relationships in this decade of your life, this is the person who many years from now may be lonely. Leaving the paradoxes of personal identity aside, it's perfectly rational for you to care about the experience of your future self. And it's important to recognise that there's probably no person on earth who is in a better position than you are right now to ensure your future self lives a good life. Every day is an opportunity to be kind to the person you will eventually become. Why not do that?”

Thank you for reading,

Matthew Vere

Share this with the right people!

If you've ever found anything here to be interesting or valuable- it would be a big help to get this to reach the right people and share it with someone that you think will appreciate it:

Thanks for joining our newsletter.
Oops! Something went wrong.

Latest newsletters

Hey, I'm Matthew 👋

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Thanks for joining our newsletter.
Oops! Something went wrong.