Some problems aren’t as gnarly as they seem

Sonnie Bailey

11 December 2020

(TLDR: For being “smart”, I can be really dumb sometimes. This article constitutes a major insight for me, but for many people the response will be: “DUH!”)

Lots of things are simple but not easy.

It’s easy to understand what you should do, but the hard part is doing it.

Certain types of people lose sight of this fact. I know this, because I am one of those types of people.

I have a tendency to think that if something isn’t easy, it must be because the problem is complex. I extrapolate that the solution must also be complex. This is often not the case.

“Hard” doesn’t always mean complicated

When something seems hard, it can be tempting to think that the problem and/or its solution complicated.

If this is the case, the way to solve the problem is to throw more mental horsepower into the problem.

But that’s not always the case.

Some problems can be solved

Many of us wrestle with the same old problems, day after day:

How can I maintain and improve my health? How can I maximise energy during the day, feel good in my body, maintain a decent weight, and improve the likelihood that I’ll enjoy a long lifespan and healthspan?

How can I cultivate great relationships with my family and chosen family (close friends)? How can I build relationships with people at various levels of intimacy in my life?

How can I make good money decisions?

Some people are lucky enough to intuit the answers to these questions. They naturally make good health decisions, cultivate great relationships, and make appropriate financial decisions. Some people have the good judgement to be born into a family where the answers to these questions are taught and/or modelled.

Many people, however, struggle with these questions. A small portion of people go overboard: they exercise too much, or focus myopically on what they eat, so they ultimately do more harm than good. Some people can be too relational. Some people are too frugal and prioritise financial wealth over other things in life that could make the story of their life richer.

However, the majority of us are the other way around.

Yes, we need to learn the answers to these problems

Most people need to learn these things, to some extent or another. We learn these things through experience, introspection, and research.

The trap I’ve historically fallen into is that I think that the puzzle will never be solved.

In reality, there are a diminishing returns to putting intellectual horsepower into the intricacies of these domains in life. But really, once you know the important stuff, and can implement and prioritise these key lessons, you can focus on other things.

Yes, there are nuances and you can go into the minutiae. But that’s the case in any domain. There are diminishing returns, and there are trade-offs all the way down.

(Of course, this doesn’t mean we stop introspecting and learning from our experiences and what we read. New situations will present themselves, with unique challenges and opportunities. But once you have a good foundation, you can relax a little, and do the research on an as-needed basis rather than just-in-case.)

The magic is in the implementation

Instead of throwing more mental horsepower at the problem, you need to throw horsepower into its implementation.

The most effective people aren’t necessarily the smartest people. The most effective people are the ones who can grind with good or good-enough strategies.

The skillpower of implementation

If I want to maintain and improve my health, I eat well and incorporate physical activity and movement into my life.

I’m at a point in my life where I know enough that I don’t need to focus on what it means to “eat well” or how to incorporate activity and movement. The magic is in implementing this knowledge.

When I was younger, I didn’t know how to make and develop good friendships, the way I do now. The key now is to prioritise relationships (and relationship-building), and put the time and energy into this domain of my life. It’s about implementation.

From an intellectual perspective, my money situation is sorted. From here on in, the key is to be diligent with cash management, ensuring I stick to my plan (updating periodically as my circumstances, needs, and objectives change), and manage the risks that come my way.

I can direct my intellectual horsepower on other things

At this point in my life, I simply need to focus on implementation and prioritisation. To the extent these areas of my life are intellectual problems, the challenge relates to building systems and strategies that make sure I do what I know I need to do.

The same might be true for you.

Other articles you may like:

Adiós, amigos!

Adiós, amigos!

Articles I never published

Articles I never published

“Buy things, not experiences”

“Buy things, not experiences”

Influencer marketing 🤮

Influencer marketing 🤮

Thoughts on AI and financial advice (April 2023)

Thoughts on AI and financial advice (April 2023)

My crystal ball is on the fritz (#AI)

My crystal ball is on the fritz (#AI)