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Invert, Always Invert – Avoid Failure to Succeed

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"Suppose I wanted to kill a lot of pilots - what would be the easy way to do it?"  That might not be what you want to hear from the guy clearing your plane for take off , but if your fellow passengers are an elderly billionaire and some Cold War-era Soviet engineers, they might rest easy knowing the right questions are being asked. That is because thinking about how to do the exact opposite of your goal is sometimes the best way to ensure you achieve it.

Let's turn to the Soviets -  Genrich Altshuller received his first patent at the age of 17 and a passion for innovation led him to study engineering before becoming a Soviet Navy patent officer. His position allowed him to see a wide range of patents, and being curious, he took a critical eye to the uniqueness of every "new" invention. This analysis eventually led to the conclusion that most of the work being done between different fields - biologists, physicists, chemists, engineers, etc - consisted of repeated invention due to ignorance outside of one's primary field. He eventually pulled together lists of best practices and key principles of innovation based on this work, which became " the theory of inventive problem solving " - alternatively known as TRIZ.

Habits Maketh the Man (and Un-Maketh Him, Too)

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Life is complex. Chaotic. Surprising. Uncertain. It is full of new things - many of which can kill us. And that’s a problem, because we humans tend to prefer not dying. Fortunately, we have been practicing surviving for quite some time and have developed a way to cut down on that chaos with a bit of order: the ability to form habits. However, and unfortunately for those humans looking for more in life than just survival, these habits often have more control over us than we have control over them.

So what are habits and why do they control us? Jason Hreha, a behavioral scientist who writes about life and business, summarizes that “habits are, simply, reliable solutions to recurring problems in our environment.” They are unconscious programs that free up our conscious mind to solve those non-recurring new problems that are constantly thrown our way. It’s too mentally expensive to try to figure out what you should do every day when you get home from work - its much easier to have a program that loads without you knowing and tells you to change clothes. Putting on running shoes loads the running program. Smelling alcohol loads the drinking program. The important take away is that whether you notice them or not, the habits are running. This means that, for better or for worse, your habits are in charge of who you are in the future.