Unknown Unknowns #14 - Seeing the Obvious
3 min read

Unknown Unknowns #14 - Seeing the Obvious

This Week:

I'm moving back to the Manhattan this weekend after 475 days at my parents' house.  It's honestly gone very quickly.  I'm both looking forward to it and worried.  While it was good to see my parents and push back the tail end, it's also good to get back to normal life.  I've been gone for so long that I've developed new routines.  How do those fit with old ones?  My wife is also moving into my apartment.  There was a lot of (my) stuff thrown out and a lot of (her) stuff added.  A lot of change to get used to.

Idea of the Week: The Metagame and This is Water

I first heard David Foster Wallace's commencement speech at Kenyon College years ago.  It's commonly referred to as the "This is Water" speech.  I originally picked up on the themes of conscious awareness and empathy.  But now I see it on a different level: Your experience in life is subjective and under your control.  I don't know why it took me this long to see it, he literally says this in the speech:

Learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed.

The metagame, according to Peter Limberg is "the game of discovering the right relationship with your ecology of games".  And the set of games "includes fitness, diet, finances, career, romance, impression management".  The metagame is to explicitly look at the different aspects of life as shapeable.  To succeed in the metagame, you need to do exactly what David Foster Wallace is talking about, making correct choices on what to focus on in your life.  And in order to do that you must introspect - you must know yourself and know your environment, and know how your environment is affecting you.  

This is where the water metaphor comes in.  The water is the environment surrounding you which affects you all the time even though you can be oblivious to it.  When you're in the ocean, currents and waves can move you around without you noticing.  You could wind up 100 feet down the shore before you realize you can't see your beach umbrella anymore.  Likewise, in life, your opinions can be shaped by the people you interact with and the content you experience.  Your opinions can drift without you realizing.  You could also act without a conscious decision.  Knowing who you are, and what you're surrounded by, and how those surroundings are affecting you, are key to making decisions that actually make you happy.

I'm writing a few longer form essays touching on this idea that will hopefully come out over the next few weeks.

Something Interesting: The Wayfinding Premium

Seth Godin writes about the wayfinding premium.

We are either adding value by using our time to do something that’s been done before… or we’re contributing by finding out a way to do something new or create a better path forward.

The wayfinding premium is the reward you get for blazing a new trail.  The first time something is done, it's much harder because there's no model for it.  Therefore the first mover usually gets an advantage.

Looking at this concept from another point of view, just because someone blazes a trail doesn't mean they reap the benefits from it.  Sometimes those are pyrrhic victories.  For example, in the dotcom bubble there were many companies that had ideas that were before their time and failed.  If you could identify the good ones and build off their ideas or acquire their assets cheaply, you can reap the benefits of the wayfinding premium without the risk of wayfinding.

Questions, suggestions, complaints?  Email me me at [email protected].  Feedback welcome.

If you enjoyed this newsletter, please share it with a friend or two.  And feel free to send anything you find interesting to me!

Have a great week,


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