Heuristics for Living

If you don’t know what a heuristic is, it’s a short cut for a body of experience, a rule of thumb that lets you make better decisions. Here is a list of some that I run my life by. The dark secret of heuristics is they are hard to learn without living the lesson.  So good luck.

  • Optimize for Joy
    Make life choices based on if it increases or decreases your overall joy. Especially job choices.
  • Get Paid to Learn
    You can pay to learn, like at a school or conference. Or you can get paid to learn, but being at a job that grows you and gives you opportunities to learn. To be honest, I like both. I like to learn.
  • Don’t Ask, Don’t Get
    This is a reminder that while you do not get everything you ask for you, certainly never get things you don’t ask for.
  • Rejection is Often Surprise
    This has been a hard one for me to learn, so I heuristic’d it. Often when I introduce an idea to an exec, he’s reject it out of hand. But later he’ll bring it up (sometimes as if he thought of it.) I realized that when an idea is quite new, most people’s first instinct is to reject it, so it’s better to not take those first reactions as law.
  • Do the Hard Thing
    Putting off conversations that must be had make them worse, and the situation more miserable.
  • Honesty Needs Compassion
    Honestly and compassion are not opposites. Honesty is more powerful with compassion.  It is not compassionate to tell someone everything single thing you think. It is not compassionate to give them a truth in a way they cannot hear. You must seek to love the person who you are sharing your truth with, and shape your truth so that they can hear and understand it. And respect it may not be their truth.
  • Comparison is the Path to Misery
    This was best said in Nonviolent Communication:
    To feel horrible, first look at swimsuit models. Are you as good looking as them? Then check on biographies of great people. Have you accomplished as much as they have? Even neighbors or friends on Facebook seem to have nicer things than you and go more interesting places.
  • Walk Away from Crazy
    I have found out the hard way when people show themselves to be genuinely unbalanced, it’s better if I withdraw. It’s not always possible if it’s loved ones who are suffering, but if a stranger (or acquaintance)  has shown themselves to be destructively random, I find it’s better for me to disengage.
  • Their Shit Is Not Your Shit
    Again, I don’t think I have much to explain. It’s just good to remember that when someone is spinning around in a state, you can choose to not take that on. You can support them with love without having to actually take on the thing that is clearly making them temporarily nuts (for full-time nuts, see above)
  • Understand, then Be Understood
    We all get super excited about our stuff, but usually it’s better to take the time to understand the person we are talking to, so we can share/teach/persuade more effectively.
  • Cruelty is Suffering
    When someone is suddenly cruel, it’s often because they are hurting and lashing out. Be more compassionate to the cruel, not less.
  • When you are tired of saying it, they are starting to hear it.
    No one is so fascinating that every word is memorized. Get used to repeating yourself, if you have a message you want to be retained.
  • Your Body Knows Things
    Pay attention to your body. Are you hands wringing? Is your stomach churning? Is your leg twitching? You are receiving a message that you are in turmoil, and it’s worth taking a few moments to breath into that loci of anxiety. As well, hunger, tiredness and achiness from inactivity all deserves to be heard and attended to.
  • Compassion Starts at Home
    You can not be kind to others until you learn to be kind to yourself.
  • Enough Instead of More
    When do we have enough money. Enough food. Enough tvs, cars, electronics. What do we really need to live? .

That’s just a few, I make up more as life teaches me stuff. What are yours?