Friday Refill - One Thing at a Time
Ben Franklin used a system of improvement that we can learn from. The idea is simple: focus on one thing at a time.
Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
Happy Friday everybody you're listening to another Friday refill episode of Developer Tea. Nothing that we say on this show is particularly new. A lot of what we're talking about is discussed in books, in philosophy, hundreds of years gone by most of the time. And so it should come as no surprise to you that when we talk about this stuff on Fridays when I try to give you something to think about it's probably something you've heard before. But it bears repeating. It's worth repeating some of the things that are so easy to forget. And I find that a lot of the time when I'm recording these episodes I'm doing it as much as repeating mantra back to myself as I am to you. And this is something in today's episode. This is something that I need to hear. And I'm trying to take that outside perspective and give myself some advice. Very often I find that when I do this other people they tend to need the advice to maybe not everybody who's listening to this but some of you will. And that advice is very simple today. When you are trying to improve do it in one area at a time. When you are trying to improve which is pretty much all of us most of the time we're probably trying to improve on something when you're trying to improve do it in one area at a time. Now why is this? Well it's pretty clear we've talked about focus on this show as a overarching theme for the vast majority of episodes. Focus will come up. And limiting our focus to fewer things is more kind of in line with the way that the human brain works. And we're going to be more effective if we try to improve in one area at a time. And realistically if we were to try to improve in every area at all times it's most likely that we will run into a few conundrums. We will run into a situation where if we're trying to optimize for one particular aspect of our personality for example. Well making one decision is going to be better than another decision which might be optimizing for a different aspect of our personality. And so it makes sense to kind of play this game of roulette to cycle through various kind of virtues for example that we want to practice. And I choose that word virtues because I want to revisit something and I'm fairly certainly for you talked about but we'll talk about it in a again today because it is relevant. It's been Franklin's virtues. He had 13 necessary virtues that can be found in his autobiography. And I'm going to read them out. They're temperance, silence, order, resolution, frugality, industry, sincerity, justice, moderation, cleanliness, tranquility, chastity, and humility. And I am reading by the way from a blog post on pharnum street and I'm going to read just the excerpt a little bit of the excerpt and I'd encourage you to go read the blog post that goes a little bit more into detail about each of those virtues that Franklin listed out. Franklin advised, right this is straight from the blog post, my intention being to acquire the habitude of all these virtues I judged, it would not, it would be well not to distract my attention by attempting the whole at once but to fix it on one of them at a time and when I should be the master of that then to proceed to another and so on till I should have gone through the 13 and as the previous acquisition of some might facilitate the acquisition of certain others, I arranged them with that view as they stand above. Temperance first as it tends to procure that coolness and clearness of head, which is so necessary where constant vigilance was to be kept up and guard maintained against the unremitting attraction of ancient habits and the force of perpetual temptations. This being acquired and established silence would be more easy and my desire being to gain knowledge at the same time that I improved in virtue. And he goes on to say essentially that all of these are kind of stacked on purpose. We're starting with temperates because temperance kind of feeds into the others. We talked about something very similar to this on the show which is the idea of stacking your skills. You can do this in virtues the way that Franklin has laid out here but you can also do this with your hard skills right. You can learn something that kind of cascades into learning other things that makes a learning other things either more valuable or easier. So why are we talking about this with reference to focus or focusing on one thing? Well, you notice that Franklin pointed out that he's going to kind of cycle through these 13 virtues and start back at the beginning whenever he's gone through all 13. And the idea here is that you're practicing one at a time and the practice that you're doing for one bleeds into the next and that you're able to focus right. He specifically calls out the idea that he didn't want to be distracted. Right. So there's so much in this and I highly recommend by the way that you read his his autobiography. It's quite long but is worth the read. So there is there's a lot here to unpack and it's not just Franklin that does this but when we're trying to improve in an area, whether it's technical or virtuous, soft, soft skills or our values that we want to practice, it helps us to be able to focus in one area and to evaluate ourselves on that area. Right. So there are certain times for example in your career, there's certain times in your life, even certain times of the year, the various seasons were practicing a particular thing might be better suited to that time period, to that phase of your life than another thing. So this is the kind of the basic homework that I want you to take home here. Now look at the things that you've been trying to do altogether. The things that you've been trying to be, the variety of virtues that you're trying to practice. What I find is that when I'm trying to practice multiple things and I'm trying to be multiple things to multiple people, I also can't seem to rest well. I can't seem to turn off my monkey brain if you want to call it that. I can't turn off the racing thoughts and sit down and simply let the day go. And so once I start practicing this idea of focusing on one thing at a time and being okay, not improving in every possible area of my life, but instead choosing, choosing to be exclusive to one area, giving everything that I have, all of my attention to that person, to that moment. I find that my rest, my weekends, you know, all of these things that we talk about on Fridays, all of them tend to improve. So as you move into your weekend, think about those things, all those things that you've been trying to be. What are the things that are distracting or pulling one thing from the other? I want you to choose one of those things and consciously let go of the other one. Consciously let go of the rest if there's multiples. And instead focus on how you can improve in that one area. Thanks so much for listening to this Friday Reefle episode of Defeloper T. I hope you enjoyed this week's episodes. We did have a little bit of an audio hiccup on that first part of the interview with Katie Milkman, but hopefully you all got the the corrected version of that episode. Of course, we will have three more episodes of this show next week. Thank you so much for listening and until next time, enjoy your tea.