Feedback Loop Life
Close friends know my lament: I’d like to share tips and help people around me but feel like life advice (especially in the wider internet sense) is contextless and therefore very limited in use.
It’s just impossible to tell you, faceless reader of unknown past / present / future how to live your life. I can’t. They can’t. No one can.
So I’ve been breaking down my learning into chunks of patterns rather than specific things. I figure any listicle is automatically wrong: just because some dude wakes up at 5 am every day and he’s successful doesn’t mean some other lady who wakes up at 8 am every day can’t be. That’s crazy.
And it’s come to light: patterns are way better for basically everything.
Even better than patterns are loops.
So, you’re probably familiar with the basic concept: a feedback loop is a flat circle of cause and effect.
On stage you might get mic feedback where the speakers project sound into the microphone and it gets amplified and played through the speakers… back into the microphone. Then, so on and so on until it’s just a squealing whine.
For an anxious person they might feel some anxiety about something and then they’ll worry about the fact that they’re worrying and then they’ll worry about that worry and so on.
Maybe you get a promotion so you start wearing nicer clothes and expensive hair products which your colleagues and boss notice, causing better office relationships and further eventual promotions. This too is a loop.
They’re everywhere once you start looking. We can predict traffic with them.
Knowing is half the battle.
So I said at the start that I’ve tried my best to not give specific advice.
My advice here then is: identify the loops and learn to control them.
I’m not sure what yours are. Some are good: feed those. Some are bad, learn to apply the brakes and dive out of the cycle.
Either way, recognizing them and applying the action will get you outcomes.
The good is relatively easy to fuel, but sometimes there’s a causation / correlation problem there that makes them tricky to identify.
The bad is perhaps more easy to identify, but hard to slow the roll of. You’re often fighting an uphill battle with whatever the compounding problem is.
This is where I hate most internet advice lists.
Some common advice as an example: “never get a credit card”.
Let’s break down two outcome cycles here:
- You get a card and have no self control. You buy everything possible on day one and max it out immediately. Oh no! The bill comes and you can’t cover it all, so you get a percent interest added. You couldn’t even pay for the original stuff, nonetheless the extra amount. Then, that amount gets interest and you’re even deeper! Curse this credit quick sand.
- You get a card and use it responsibly, never going over your limits and always having enough to pay your owed amounts. Turns out, some credit cards have a lot of benefits that debit cards don’t like travel bonuses, cash back rewards, concierge services, free insurance, discounts at hotels, fraud protection and so on. By using a credit card you’ve gotten free stuff and improved your credit score without any extra work. Nice!
And honestly, I have no idea which of those two people you are.
But I can tell you that if you see which one you are / might already be headed down you can likely predict the future.
If you can predict the future, you can change it.
If you can change the future, you can build your life into whatever you want.
Cool. So loop prediction is good.
The other cool thing is that positive loops, once set up, are basically effortless.
See, there’s a momentum to everything. I swore off mechanical metaphors, but this is the flywheel of life. A flywheel is a heavy metal disk in engines that keeps things running smoothly by having inertia to offset the piston’s oscillating and less than perfect motion consistency. Because it takes energy to speed up or slow down an object in motion, once the flywheel is up to speed it can stay there relatively easily and smooth out the other moving parts.
You can make perpetual motion benefit machines.
Similar to the credit card example above, we can set up a lot of financial benefits that self-regulate. Saving is the best example since the very nature of compounding interest means that it’ll add to itself automatically up and up the curve over time.
We can set them up in our lives: toxic friends who add drama demand a level of babysitting from our own responsibilities and attentions, and engaging them at their level means you will almost certainly be pulled to that level over time. Your time spent doing those things is keeping you from better things.
Likewise, having mentors and successful peers will naturally feedback upwards and open increasing connections for you and others. This is the (theoretical) basis of most mastermind groups: it’s this mutual upward intention. Whether it works in practice is up to specific people, but.
Same with business, especially as I’m learning this freelance thing where the friend / business partner line is very fuzzy indeed. Working with consummate professionals will ensure the work is good and doing good work gets more (usually better) work, and that work can be shown off to get even better work.
Eating good food means you feel more energized and that energy means you can cook better food. Side bonus, this will improve both your life span and quality. Oppositely: the downward loop of eating trash food to make yourself feel better because your brain is running on trash food.
Getting good sleep means you wake up fresh and feeling energetic without coffee means you can sleep at a normal time that night, meaning you can get a good sleep and so on.
In summary: loops are super cool and you can (should) both learn to identify and exploit them for fun and profit.
It doesn’t really matter the specifics: almost any problem stems from some other set of variables and we can patternize them. With that knowledge we can approach the problem (and sub-problems) efficiently and effectively.
Likewise: very few positive outcomes are truly coincidence or random. Learning to create upward cycles and patterns that put you in the path of these “chances” are the way to get them to occur to you.
Then, think about the inertia.
Bad loops are hard to slow down and stop (but possible!) because they’ve got mass spinning behind them. You’re applying the brakes and sometimes it feels slow or ineffective, but clawing out of a loop is often just one inch at a time.
Good loops take a bit to get moving, but once they do they’re relatively reliable at smoothing out the other moving parts in life. They can run under their own upward cycle momentum with less energy than you’d have to spend manually do it each time. Use these to your benefit.
And even if you feel ineffective at changing the loops, merely identifying them in yourself and others is valuable. Loop empathy is equally powerful in allowing you to solve other people’s problems, and solving problems usually leads to generating value and that to getting paid.
Cool cool cool.
I want to talk more about problem solving itself both because it’s my career in like five different senses of the word and also because I think it’s the most valuable thing not being taught in schools / things that I see in friends and peers all the time. So if you have anything you’re struggling with, let’s solve it!