Principles by Ray Dalio is basically a collection of all the wisdom Ray Dalio has ingrained. Halfway finishing the book I thought This book is amazing, but it has too many good lessons. How am I going to remember to apply these lessons when the situation arises?
The typical route for developing your own principles is to make a mistake, feel the pain of that pitfall and think, how could I have avoided that error? At which point your brain replies, You developed a wrong opinion about this person. Didn’t Ray Dalio say something about opinions in his book? At which point you flip back to the page and read:
Ask yourself whether you have earned the right to have an opinion. Opinions are easy to produce, so bad ones abound. Knowing that you don't know something is nearly as valuable as knowing it. The worst situation is thinking you know something when you don't.
This is nice to keep in mind for the next time a similar problem occurs, but wouldn’t life be easier if you didn’t have to go about making mistakes and learning from them — if you could see the situation and apply the right protocol?
The problem isn’t that we don’t have foresight, the problem is that when we’re going through life events, we don’t have a mental clarity to consciously remember to apply the right protocol to the right situation. If we were robots we could. If we we’re robots we could just set an IFTTT trigger event (or a Zapier) that pops up in our mind and tells us what to do. Obviously we’re not robots, but I think there’s something that clues us in on how to move toward this, and that something is If / Then statements (Conditional Statements).
Conditional Statements are already known for being really powerful for habit building. According to an article by Psychology Today, you’re way to more likely to succeed by setting an if / then statement beforehand:
Amazingly, you are two to three times more likely to succeed if you use an if-then plan than if you don't. In one study, 91 percent of people who used an if-then plan stuck to an exercise program, versus 39 percent of non-planners.
Yes this is really cool stuff, but I want to take this one step further: by utilizing conditional statements in a similar way to how I use IFTTT.
Okay so, first let me explain my process, then I’ll give you some examples of how I applied to to my life.
Step 1: Keep a list of all of your conditional statements. If you think of a useful conditional statement, add it to your list. I use evernote
This is similar to the recipes analogy of IFTTT. You want them all in one place so that you can easily keep track of what things you're currenting setting a trigger for. I have two lists on the same document; one for the things I'm currently trying to pattern, and the other is a list of conditional statements that I've fully hooked.
Step 2: Decide which ones will act as reminders and which ones require either habit building or patterning/conditioning
Example 1: I noticed that whenever people ask me “do you mind if I…(do this thing)”, I get nervous for some reason and immediately respond, “yes”. The correct reply however, and the wording I would rather answer with is, “I don’t mind, go ahead”. So I set this as an if / then statement in my Evernote. I noticed that this situation is likely to occur at the gym when people ask to borrow weights or use a machine. So I wrote this statement out and taped it onto the back of my gym scan-in card. Every time I scanned my card at the gym I would remember to utilize the right protocol: “I don’t mind, go ahead”. After this patterned at the gym, it naturally spread to the rest of my life.
Example 2: I only have one copy of my car keys, and If I locked those keys in my trunk it was an ordeal to get out. So I set the statement: If I’m closing my trunk lid, I will hold my car key in hand. I wrote this onto a flashcard and put it into my trunk so I that I would naturally see it if my trunk was open. I also added to the flashcard: If you’re parking on the street, check for street parking signs. I haven’t gotten a parking ticket or locked my keys in my trunk for a long time.
Step 3: If you’re trying to trigger a protocol that’s more conceptual, you’ll have to take more time for entrainment and conditioning. I haven’t quite fully figured this out, and I intend to write a blog post on this when I do, but my current guess is to use some kind of mnemonic device to help you immediately think of the protocol that you’re patterning a trigger to. Another idea I had is that, according to the book The Power of Habit, it only takes 5 occurrences of a trigger-protocol to begin building a habit. Based on this, my advice is to proactively set a situation, and practice the right protocol for that situation five times as a minimum effective dose.
I’ve started thinking about this 2 years ago, and its been immensely useful to me over the past years. Because not only does it steeply shorten the path to solving reoccurring problems, it’s an easy way to get clarity on how to start solving a reoccurring problem. The last if / then statement I hooked was: If I say um, uh, or like, I will pause take a breath and continue talking slowly. I set a trigger event by having my close friends tell me whenever those words slipped out. And I’ve drastically reduced my “umms”, “uhhs”, and “likes” in less than two months with minimal effort — some people go their whole lives “umming” and “uhhing”. Its so powerful man, so powerful.
Yes! I've also met with some success using these ("if I want to lock my front door, then I will do it with my key from the outside,"being one that's taken a load off my mind).
re: triggering more abstract protocols - I agree with your consciously setting up the situation.
For more abstract things, I focus less on the mechanics, and more on the emotion/instinct I'm feeling at that point. The idea here is that if I entrain the mindset, the mechanics/behavior will flow naturally; setting up situations purposefully helps me to prepare to do this.
One example: calling to mind times where, say, I was upset with an SO, then consciously calming down, and consciously trying to really feel what it feels like to calm down and make that the more familiar, default emotional response.
Hard to describe. Anything similar to what you might be thinking?
yeah man! I've been thinking about that too. I heard that emotions play a large part in memory, so that could be a key answer -- being able to (in practice) call to mind a memory of a scenario, bring up the emotion(s) from that memory and then consciously practice the right protocol with that emotion still there...that could be really key. I'm gonna give it a try too, let me know how it goes for you.
I walked up to the front desk and asked, “I have some questions about my account, can I speak to a manager?”. I was at the gym, and my plan was to ask about why they charged a $30 fee, and a mailing I got saying they offered a $7 membership. I wanted to see if there was leverage in negotiating a waiver of the $30 or my membership fee ($15) down.
The manager explained that the $30 fee was a yearly fee and that the $7 membership is a special membership that allowed you to only go 3 times a week. So, I didn’t get a negotiation win from that —
If you know me, I’m a big fan of Ramit Sethi and one of his main financial teachings is to have you negotiate a lot throughout the course of your life. When I first read his material I immediately agreed with his advice, but the thought of negotiating things seemed weird and out of the norm. I mean, I’m Chinese so I naturally inherited a lot of my Mom’s skills, but I didn’t know how to apply these skills outside of flea shops or Craigslist.
But since for the past year I’ve been playing the credit card signup bonus game, and incurred credit card fees and bank fees, I’ve made many attempts at applying Ramit’s negotiation techniques. His blog posts basically walk you through each step, and by following it, I’ve experienced how easy it is to win at these things. For example, I lost track of my Amex card and didn’t realize I didn’t pay the card for 3 months. This resulted in late fees of over $100. But Amex’s customer service is so good, all I had to do was call in and ask for them to be waived, and they did. When you experience wins like that, success can be addictive.
I've had a few friends who've gone through quitting smoking. The hard part, they say, is that certain things trigger wanting to smoke. Stressful situation? Time to smoke. Driving a car? Time to smoke. Drinking at a bar? Time to smoke. The reason that bad habits are so hard to quit is that we have these many triggers that start us down that path almost automatically. A compulsive eater might get into a stressful situation and have a hamburger halfway into their face before they even consciously think about whether or not they should be eating.
The silver lining of this nuance of human nature is that we can also harness triggers to create positive habits. Just as bad habits are so hard to break because of our triggers, good habits can be made resilient using the same mechanism. And just as bad habits are built slowly and incrementally, so are good habits.
I meditate for five minutes every day. As soon as I wake up, I grab my phone and press the start button on a five minute meditation timer. Waking up is my trigger. At first I had to remind myself to do the meditation every morning, but now I do it almost automatically. It would feel strange not to meditate. Just as a veteran smoker is likely to have a harder time quitting than a new smoker, the longer I keep my meditation habit, the easier it becomes to maintain.
There are two main types of triggers: contextual triggers and constant triggers. Waking up is a constant trigger, since I do it every single day and want to meditate every day. A contextual trigger is something that happens at an inconsistent frequency. For me, feeling tired during the day is a contextual trigger. Whenever that happens, I drink a glass of water, because I've found that sometimes I'm just dehydrated and not actually tired.