The way to do anything in life well is actually the same, no matter if it’s a trivial thing like cleaning the house, or a major goal like living a fulfilling life or buying a house. There is a common frame to solve all these problems, I call it the Wild Pyramid of Life.
What is the Wild Pyramid of Life?
Wild Pyramid of Life is a frame for solving problems and achieve greatness in life. It’s a four-level frame: mindset → thinking → method → knowledge, and the importance increases from the bottom to the top. The higher level you achieve, the better you will be at doing something.
Some examples of these four levels:
- Mindset: motivation, determination, honesty, responsibility, confidence, not anxious, no perfectionism, no fucks given
- Thinking: structural thinking, iterative thinking, evolutionary thinking, cost thinking, product thinking
- Method: planning, communicating, tools, MECE, 5W1H
- Knowledge: how to code in python
Some examples of the areas the Wild Pyramid of Life can be applied in our life:
- How to live our life in general
- How to deal with trauma
- What career path to take
- How to manage relationships
- How to explore our hobbies
- How to manage time
- How to read more useful books
- How to exercise
- How to clean the house
In a word, anything.
Why The Wild Pyramid of Life is Like This
When thinking of solving a problem, the first thing comes into our mind is the knowledge or tools needed. For instance, when we talk about photography, what instantly pop out are camera, photoshop, composition, lighting, etc. These are all methods, tools, or knowledge, and for most people, it is all photography is about.
But it’s not. It’s the most obvious, but the least important.
The difference between a normal and a great photographer lies not in the knowledge or tools. A great photographer can shoot with an iPhone 4 and get better images than a DSLR.
“They practice way more than me so they just have more knowledge about it”.
True to a certain extent, but still, it’s the surface.
Why can’t you learn as hard as him? Why can’t you learn as fast as him? Why you quit in the middle but he didn’t? Why he stuck to it when everyone around him said he is crazy and it will never work out, but you doubted yourself and gave up?
It’s these “whys” that really matter and make him better. And the reason to these whys is, you guessed it, mindset and thinking.
We humans are not machines, we are propelled by emotion. We need meaning for everything we do, and everything we do is narrated as a story.
The process of doing anything is exactly the same as the structure of a story:
First you have a why, then a goal, then you meet obstacles, then you overcome the obstacles, you also need proper methods and tools and knowledge, and eventually you achieve the goal and have some kind of change.
In the four levels of the Wild Pyramid of Life, mindset is the only one that is emotional, the other three levels are logical.
Mindset is the meaning.
Mindset is the why, the goal, and the power that helps you break through those obstacles. Let’s talk about each of these three aspects.
1. The first step of doing anything is to identify your “why”. It could be something that makes you feel excited, something you feel responsible for, or you need to do it to avoid some kind of pain. No matter what it is, you need to feel emotionally fueled. The stronger, the better. Notice that identifying the why is not how our mind naturally works, you need to train yourself to adopt this mindset.
If you can’t find this drive, then ask yourself more whys. Why did I want to do this in the first place? What’s my ultimate purpose? Is there a car somewhere but I am trying to find a faster horse? Did I do it just because someone told me to and I don’t want to let them down or be a pussy?
The motivation part in mindset is exactly the clithe “passion””purpose”talk we hear a lot, when talking about career design and life design in general.
Just look at what you are doing in your life, the major problem is not how to do it better, but you shouldn’t do it in the first place. This is not you. Think this through.
2. Next step is to set a clear goal. You could just let your why lead the way and go without a clear goal, it’s ok, but a clear goal is way better. If you jump from book to book that fall into the large self-improvement field, reading with no specific purpose, you’ll end up reading a lot, but remembering very little. But if you set a goal like for this month, I will thoroughly study the single topic of self-esteem, you will be more productive and ends up with a more clear picture of what you have learned.
3. Then you will face tons of obstacles. The biggest monster along the road is your own mindset. During the whole journey, people will doubt you, they will judge you, throw shit at you, even set you up. People who are not only strangers but also your mom, your spouse, your loved ones.
Other times they don’t really care about what you are doing, but you create a lot of obstacles for yourself in your mind and beat yourself up repeatedly. “What if I fail and look like a fool?” “What if they laugh at me?” “This is harder than I thought” “Maybe it’s not for me” “My mom will never agree”.
Other times quickly after you started, you realize that you just want the cake but don’t want to bake.
See? This is why most people fail and only a few make it and being “succsessful”. Because you don’t have a strong mindset.
And you don’t even have to wait for the journey to start to tell if a person will make it.
Now you have the mindsets packed, the next important thing is thinking.
You may have heard about Charlie Munger’s mental models, or Elon Musk’s first principles, or the 80/20 law, or structural thinking, or the law of diminished return, these are all thinking models. In its nature, thinking models are human’s understanding of how the world works. And the more we know about the world, the easier for us to solve problems in it.
We know nothing when we were born. Then by learning from and interacting with the world, gradually we build up our thinking models, it’s the way we see the world and process all the events that happened to us daily.
If we are computers, then our brain is the processor, and these thinking models are software running on it. You can feed the same information into people’s brains, but the output can be utterly different due to different thinking models.
Our ability to solve problems depends on the thinking models in our heads. People who are packed with plenty of powerful thinking models are more likely to handle this life thing as a pro.
For instance, when faced with the same complicated problem, people who are capable of structural thinking can dissect the problem into different levels and categories, forming a clear view of it, then solve it part by part. While people who are not packed with this tool will probably just panic and snap, “this shit is so heavy and complex, I don’t even know where to start! “
Tools are often included in method.
Thinking models is how we analyze problems, and method is how we solve them.
You must know someone who can learn and solve problems not only faster but also better than others. “Guy is smart, it’s something you are born with”. No. Actually most “smart” people look smart because they have different ways and tools of dealing with stuff.
Tim Ferriss become the first American to win the National Chinese kickboxing championship, with little if no practice. If he took the normal way of practicing from the very basic for like ten years ( he will not ), then competed with others, he will certainly not win it. What he did is first study the rules of the competition, and find an unnoticed rule – push the opponent off stage three times, and you win. And that’s what he did. And he won, just like that.
This is a somewhat radical example, but the idea is that methods and tools matter, a lot.
Faster and better, baby.
Then comes the surface, the obvious, knowledge.
It’s the “5 most popular photo compositions”, the “how to meditate”, and the “machine learning 101”.
It’s the leaves on a tree, it’s what makes a tree shiny and flourish. But remember, it’s the root, the trunk, and the branches that make the leaves possible.
Say you want to learn how to swim.
A lot of people do it this way: dad said that I should learn to swim ( or my friends can swim so I want to learn too). Then they just ask a friend who can swim to teach them, or sign up for a class, then follow the curriculum. If the coach says there will be 10 classes, you go for 10. Not going beyond, not falling behind. Then they most likely then end up quitting or being mediocre.
See the problem here? No clear mindset, thinking, method or planning.
This is how I did it under the guide of the Wild Pyramid of Life:
1. Why do I want to learn to swim in the first place?
- It is a basic surviving skill.
- It is my dream to go swimming and scuba diving in the Maldives and to surf in Uluwatu. And this is part of my life goal to explore the world. To do that, I need to learn to swim.
- It is a great way to exercise.
- I really enjoy the feeling of playing freely in the water.
2. My goal.
More specific goals will be set after the research work, but here at the beginning, I set the ultimate goal of swimming breaststroke and freestyle effortlessly at the end of this.
3. Dealing with obstacles.
- I will not give a fuck about what others think about me
Anytime you go to the pool, there are around half of the people just stand by the pool in the water, arms on the edge, acting all cool, but behind their swimming glasses are the anxious eyes reading “I better lean here and pretend I don’t even care about this shit, so people won’t know I suck and laugh at me! “. I won’t be one of them. I told myself to not give a fuck about what others think about me, laugh as you want, but I am here to learn, and I learn by failure, I will make mistakes but also progress.
- I will not be easily frustrated
I expect there will be times when I swim for two hours straight, try all kinds of adjustments, but with no progress made. It’s ok, it won’t stop raining just because I forgot my umbrella.
- Safety first
I will not jump into the water at shallow area and then break my nose just to impress some cute girl.
Now with all these mindsets, I have enough drive to enjoy this learning process and overcome all the obstacles that awaits me down the road. I have determined to go consistently to the swimming pool without excuses until I reach my goal. I will not give a fuck about what others think about me and just stick to my own practice plan. I am expecting things to go wrong so I won’t quit easily. And I want to go out with the body I came in with. Have not even started, but I am pretty sure I will kill it.
1. Structural thinking
OK now I need to deconstruct this learning process into phases with structural thinking.
- Phase 1: research and analysis.
What are the common ways to learn this? what are the pros and cons of each choice? what path is for me? why?
After a quick research, there are three choices: sign up for a class, learn from a friend, and teach yourself.
I heard before about these classes, a lot of the instructors just teach you the how but not the why, also it takes a longer time, and costs a lot of money. I am confident there must be a lot of tutorials on the internet for common skills like swimming, and even a lot taught by real professionals like world champions. And I can surely learn a lot faster than in a rigid class. So I decided to teach myself on the internet to save both time and money.
- Phase 2: find a course that’s both good and suits me.
This takes a little bit of time and trial and error, but you could just search on youtube, and find channels with the most views, for each channel watch a couple of videos, and choose one to try out.
- Phase 3: further deconstruct the steps of learning this course.
Watch some videos → make up a practice plan → go practice → meet obstacles → search for solution → try and solve obstacles → watch more videos and repeat this cycle → reach the goal.
2. Feedback thinking
Knowing that the human brain is a rewarding machine, I need to set achievable small goals for each step. This way, not only will you make clear progress, but this consistent small progress will also serve as positive feedback, so you will have that solid happiness of achievement, which in turn drives you further down the road. I won’t beat myself up with overestimated unreachable goals.
3. The 80/20 law ( Pareto’s law )
Instead of honing a single gesture like kicking to “perfection”, I will first practice each gesture to a just OK level, then put all the parts together to perform a complete swim. This way, even though each of my movements might not be totally in position, but look, I can swim now! This only takes around 20 percent of the time, but the return is significant. Later I can work on improving my single movements.
Why? It’s a combination of diminished marginal return and positive feedback thinking.
4. One small step at a time
I will follow the tutorial, start from the very basics, then build up gradually, no skipping steps, no anxious “I need to be great and I need it now or else my life will be over by the end of this” thoughts.
You may notice that this thinking is rooted in the non-anxious mindset, just as you will find that everything traces back to mindset.
1. Practice plan
Now you have the mindset and thinking, but before you jump right into the water, you need a practice plan, with a clear goal.
Why a plan? You have probably seen quite a few people go to the pool consistently, for half a year, without any progress, just randomly doing a bit of this and then a bit of that.
No matter what is your goal in swimming, you need to go with a plan, or your time will be wasted.
If you come for exercise, set a goal of something like 500 meters freestyle.
If you come for practice, then choose a goal like this time, for these two hours, I will learn how to breathe. And this further breaks into three steps: poolside standing practice, side kick in the water and breath, and finally breath coordination with freestyle swimming. If I am stuck in the middle somewhere, at least I will identify what is the obstacle, so that when I get home, I could find some solution to try for the next time.
Each time I go with a plan to make certain progress until finally I reach the goal of swimming breaststroke and freestyle effortlessly.
2. Ask a friend to film my moves
So I can find what am I doing wrong by comparing my footage to the tutorial.
The online tutorial is itself a tool. So do the auxiliary equipment like a floating board or breathing tube ( I personally don’t use these).
Then it’s the nitty gritty knowledge, or skill if you will. How to do freestyle kicks, how to breathe without water coming into your nose, and how to coordinate arms legs and breath. In a word, the swimming you can see directly with your eyes.
- The Wild Pyramid of Life is the hidden frame for being good at anything in life.
- It’s a four-level frame: mindset → thinking → method → knowledge.
- Mindset is the most important among the four. It’s the only one that is emotional.
- Mindset is the why, the goal, and the power that helps you break through obstacles.
- Thinking models are human’s understanding of how the world works. Our ability to analyze problems depends on it.
- Method and tools determine the speed and quality of our problem-solving.
- Knowledge is the surface, the obvious, the common image of “doing a thing”.
Question of the day (QOD): what’s your thoughts on this frame? Have you ever wondered why some people around you just excel at everything they do? Leave a comment below.
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