The Simulation Framework

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Over the past few months, I’ve developed a fascination with the concept of Mental Models & Frameworks. A mental model or framework is simply a way to process information.

One mental model that I co-developed with a close friend is the Simulation Framework, which suggests to look at every scene in your life as a simulation.

Different people live in different simulations. They see life differently because they process information differently. Thinking of those different experiences as “simulations” helps you take them less seriously. Take this example:

  • Action X happens
  • Person A thinks it’s the end of the world
  • Person B laughs and moves on
  • Person C gets slightly stressed but immediately starts drawing solutions

Each of these 3 people were exposed to the exact same information. They processed the information differently, leading to them almost living entirely different realities. They each had a different simulation.

One day, I was super engaged and focused in a particular task I was working on. I was happy and zen, and after hours of focus, I hold my phone and check Twitter out of force of habit. The first tweet that popped was for a gentleman who was fuming of anger at a political figure. The tweet held so many emotions, I felt each one of them. It had caps, exclamation marks, and cuss words; all the good stuff! I got consumed in that tweet for a long minute, then I got myself out of it thinking “woah…. what a simulation!”. This poor guy is living in a tormented state of mind. I wouldn’t wanna be him. I’m sure what he was saying had some truth (whether objective or subjective), but sheesh… What. A. Simulation.

I felt that because I was in a completely different simulation, and the contrast between his and mine was extremely high.

Have you ever been relaxed reading a book only to get an unexpected call from someone who wasn’t having a good day? That’s a contrast between your simulation and his/hers.

The Simulation Framework is the mother of all mental models and frameworks, because different mental models produce different simulations.

We ended up building so many pieces on top of the Simulation Framework. One of which was on relationships. Your strongest relationships are with those you have the most “simulation overlap” with. The people who share similar mental models and frameworks as you are those you’d relate to the most.

Nobody’s born with the perfect set of mental models. Those you have to develop and learn.

It’s been super exciting learning new mental models and applying them. One of the best writers on the topic is George Mack. I highly recommend you subscribe to his newsletter.

Dopamine Addiction

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I admit: I’m addicted to dopamine. I guess most of us are to an extent. There’s something about keeping our minds busy that’s attractive. It’s horrifying to have our minds wander freely when we’re alone. It’s even more attractive when we’re watching other people’s lives. It’s always good to think you’re better than someone else, eh? And when someone’s doing better than you, you crawl into depression. But you still can’t stop.

I’ve been off Instagram for the past 3 months now. The longest I’ve ever been away since I started using it… How insane is that? I have never stopped using Instagram since I started using it 8 or so years ago. But that applies to most people I know…

The trigger was a talk with Chamath Palihapitiya one of Facebook’s early employees. I’ve heard plenty of talks on how the dopamine addiction isn’t good for you and yada yada… But this guy did it slightly differently.

Chamath basically said that if you use social media, you’re programming your brain for always seeking instant gratification and short term pleasures. And if you do that on one front, then it applies on the rest of your life as well, whether you like it or not. So you cannot be a long term thinker if your brain is wired for short term instant rewards. You won’t have the patience for long term rewards if you’re so addicted to their more attractive cousin.

That hit home. I aspire to be a long term thinker. I believe that there’s a lot of benefit not only to oneself but also to society around them when they think long term and discipline themselves to overcome the weakness of seeking short term pleasures.

May we always have the willpower to free ourselves from the dopamine addiction.

Happiness is not the End

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Everyone seems to be on their pursuit of happiness. While different people attribute different goals and desires to happiness, I think the state is very comparable for everyone.

We look at attaining happiness as if it was a process:

  • I’m at point A
  • I want to be at point B
  • To get there, I need to work
  • When I get to point B, I will be happy

This simple yet flawed equation makes it seem as if the “work” is a means to an end, as if work is merely meant to get you to happiness.

But work is actually where we derive happiness from!

Winning a race isn’t something that’s accomplished by someone who’s crazy about winning. It’s accomplished by him who is crazy about racing. Happiness is the process, not the reward.

If you’re in love with the image of being a world-class pianist, you’ll never be one. If you’re in love with the practice of playing when nobody’s watching, that’s when you’re likely to become one.

Happiness is not the end. Happiness is the means to an end.
Happiness is not the goal. Happiness is the process.

Work Principles

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I jotted down some of the work principles I live by. I’ve learned some of these through experience, and many of them through books and mentors. This will act as a reference for me, those who work with me, and others. It’s still a work in progress.

  • Don’t take your job for granted.
    • Do your best to earn your place every day. This goes to everyone, from janitor to CEO.
  • Work hard in silence. Period.
    • Don’t even anticipate success to make the noise. Don’t crave the noise or recognition.
    • Gain gratification and satisfaction intrinsically, not extrinsically.
    • Press and fame are vain.
    • Be in love with the process, not the results.

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Going Live (& Alive)

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pulse

As a founder/creator, I often struggle with launching my products and ideas. It seems like the “launch” is this huge step where an idea makes a leap from 0 to 1. From nonexistence into a sudden loud existence, shocking everyone in the process, and hence generating lots of pressure.

This can be terribly crippling, however, since ideas and products feed off of usage and thrive on it. Depriving an idea from usage is like depriving it from oxygen. Therefore, one must put an idea out there as soon as possible, and avoid perfectionism at any cost.

To add to that, if my idea is deprived of feedback as a founder, I would suffer the consequences of low motivation. Usage and feedback give creators pulses of motivation towards their projects. An idea that is out there and public, even if it has 1 user, is much better than one that never sees light.Read More

Tension of Opposites

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There’s tranquility in between every two opposites, and both are needed. Good is meaningless if bad didn’t exist. Virtue is empty without vice.

For every two opposites, there’s some healthy balance in between. I call that the tension of opposites.

  • Working hard is good, but if not coupled with some leisure, burnout occurs.
  • Everyone wants to be happy, but without some suffering, life becomes miserable & meaningless.
  • Having a partner that’s similar to you is nice, but having no differences makes a relationship dull.

Nobody knows what the right balance of these opposites is. In fact, the balance is different for every person, time, place, and situation.

Knowing that some tension of opposites must exist, however, should make us a bit more adaptable, flexible, and tolerant.

Principles don’t always work, because in principle, nothing is absolute. Every rule has its exceptions, except this one.

On Money

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Here, I put down all my thoughts and principles around money.

These are principles I wish someone had taught me.

Money

  • Money is a resource; a made up one.
  • Money doesn’t exist in nature. It is a tool we developed to make it easier to transfer value while conducting trade.
  • Instead of trading items and services directly, we get to store, lend, divide, and transfer value in the form of money.
  • Money is a concept, and currency is its unit.

Market

  • The sum of trade transactions and their pricing is referred to as the market.
  • The market is a natural system. It came before money was invented, and is as old as two archaic men exchanging meat with fruit.
  • The market is decentralized and cannot be controlled by any single entity.
    • It can be influenced by regulation, both positively and negatively, but never controlled.
  • “The market always decides”; meaning that the nodes in the market collectively decide what happens to it with their economic activity.
    • The nodes in any market economy are based of supply and demand; sellers and buyers.
      • The buyer always sets the price. In theory, assuming no monopoly, if a seller doesn’t serve the buyer well, another better seller would emerge.
  • Central entities regulate their market by printing more cash when it’s needed, while ensuring the market isn’t flooded with cash.
    • If people have a lot of cash, pricing inflation happens in the market, and sellers charge higher prices because buyers can afford it.
      • Inflation almost helps no one in the long run, because every person will need more money to buy the same things, making the currency unit less valuable.

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On the Value of One’s Time

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Time value in money

Having been in the US for the past few months, I’ve been hearing arguments on hourly minimum wage and how it’s “not enough” for low-skill labor jobs. I found that to be quite an interesting argument considering that the average American is paid at least 10x of what their Asian or African counterparts are paid for doing the exact same job in a different geographic location. Of course, the value of money is relative to what it could buy you, and that’s why I put the “not enough” in quotation marks. But that got me thinking many questions, mainly; what constitutes the value of a human’s hour?

Here, I do not wish to address the sociopolitical history or reasons that made American’s minimum wage (and cost of living) much higher than what it is in Vietnam for example (story for another day maybe). My curiosity, however, led me to think of what constitutes the value of a human hour on a logical and economical level.

To do that, I always like to go back in history to observe how concepts such as that of a salary were forged. Technically speaking, a salary, just like money, is a made up concept by us Homo Sapiens. Going back a few hundred thousand years in the Savannah of Africa, the most basic forms of trade were between two humans. One who’s genetically strong hunts animals to feast on them, and another who’s more flexible climbs trees to catch fruits. Some days, the hunter wouldn’t manage to hunt a feast, and others, the gatherer saw no fruits in sight. That’s where and when the simplest forms of trade (and loans) had started. I like to refer to that as the Exchange of Labor.

Technically speaking in that example, the value of the hunter’s unit of time is completely dependent on whether or not he managed to hunt; accomplishing the valuable goal (nutrition resource). Some forecasting of how many kilos of meat a hunter could get can be made, an assumption on what others are willing to trade in return for a kilo of meat also could be made, and an approximated average on the value of a hunter’s hour is then possible to be calculated in a given day for example. But all of that goes to trash is the hunter fails to hunt. There is no inherent value of a human’s time, unless tied to an accomplished goal that is valuable to someone else.

This might be a big idea to tie one’s head around, but it’s true. As society grew, we moved in interesting directions. We invented companies to accomplish bigger goals that need people working together instead of a hunter working alone. Somewhere along the way, as group tasks became more complex and tasks’ outcomes became more difficult to quantify, approximations and hypotheses were put in place, giving birth to a fixed income concept. That was an interesting solution that helped ignore the problem of quantifying the value of an individual’s value of outcome, and focus on the overall group value of outcome. While unfair in some places, it saved a lot of time. I also don’t know whether the question of “what’s the minimum does this human need to eat, sleep, and buy clothes?” was a deciding factor in deciding one’s salary, but it certainly became so with time.

Either way, fast forward a few centuries, and the concept of a salary was engraved in our minds, giving us comfort and peace of mind at the expense of modern-day slavery and anxiety due to lack of productivity.

Point here is: an hour of my time driving is worth nothing. Null. Nada. None. An hour of me successfully reaching to destination X, delivering items Y, to human Z who deems this service of value is what’s valuable. Time itself is subjective and is worthless if the task was not accomplished. The value of that service is priced by the market; what human/customer Z would pay for it. That’s based on scarcity and cost of living essentially (also a story for another day?)

I think salaries have served a purpose, but I see a comeback for performance based income that has already unraveled in the form of “gig economy”. What’s funny is that in reality, gigs were the norm, and now they’re the exception. On a societal level, salaries introduced entitlement and complacency. With globalization, more and more products and services are being produced better and cheaper by those who lack entitlement and complacency, and those, as history proves time and time again, will always win.

Fitting One’s Narrative

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Missing jigsaw puzzle pieces in unfinished work concept. White pattern texture background.

If you’re doing anything in life, then you’re selling. Your work to a customer, your self to a partner, or your idea to an investor. In any case, I have come to believe that you can approach anyone in the world and sell them anything if you fit their narrative.

Everyone has a narrative; that is, the story of their life to this moment and everything that entails. If you want to convince this talented designer to join your new venture that has $0 in funding, your chances are much higher if they were an ambitious 20-something without much responsibility than if they had just given birth 2 months ago and have to pay off mortgage.

If you wanted to sell your art to a well-known collector, you’d fit their narrative much better if your art was addressing a problem they strongly identified with than one they didn’t feel as strongly about.

I have observed this by approaching certain people I look up to, wanting to sell them on something that didn’t fit their narrative well, and then at a later point selling them something else that fit their narrative perfectly.

Most of the time, it’s not about what you’re selling, but rather about how that piece fits the buyer’s half-done jigsaw puzzle, also known as their life.

This is of course assuming that you’re doing a good job explaining and selling whatever it is that you’re selling. But even that becomes less important since what you’re selling would resonate with me faster if it had fit my narrative.

Always think of what you’re selling from the buyer’s perspective. If it doesn’t work for them at this given moment, move on. There’s almost 8,000,000,000 people in the world.

Change who you’re selling to, or change what you’re selling.

On Mental Health & Suffering

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Out of all the problems I’ve been researching, mental health seems to be the single most complex problem to solve, and at the same time, in my opinion, the single most important one.

Mental Health describes the efficiency of the operating system that we run through. Just how your computer runs macOS, or Linux, your mental framework has to set values to what’s good and when you’re rewarded, what’s bad and when you’re punished, and most of all, it has to follow a meaningful goal.

Mental Health is the most complex problem because the factors that influence it are almost infinite. From the piece of land you were born in, to the religion you were raised on, and all the way to the job you ended up doing. Every single interaction in your everyday life, whether with yourself or with others does influence and affect that framework.

The most successful people I have met always have their mental framework running at maximum efficiency. Note that this doesn’t necessarily mean that they work harder or longer hours. It just means that they value some things more than others. Their value systems are more objective. They define what a ‘virtue’ is and practice what they preach to themselves before others.

My generation specifically -Millennials-, and the successor Gen Z, suffer greatly from unprecedented levels of anxiety and depression. I tried to look into why that is, and how to fix it. Because if the framework in which one does things is broken, then whatever results come out of it will not be expected to be of any good. And if no one fixes these mental framework severe issues, then literally nothing else matters.Read More