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Dan Cole

Perhaps there are thoughts we cannot think

5-Step Process

Time is like a river that will take you forward into encounters with reality that will require you to make decisions. You can’t stop the movement down this river, and you can’t avoid encounters. You can only approach these encounters in the best way possible.

The most important quality that differentiates successful people from unsuccessful people is our capacity to learn and adapt to these things.

How People’s Thinking Abilities Differ

  • Details to Big Picture
  • Learning to Thinking (Remembering what they were taught verses independent reasoning)
  • Tasks to Goals
  • Planners to perceivers (Perceivers more readily adapt to what’s happening, while planners stick to the plan)
  • Driven by Emotion to Intellect
  • Risk-averse to Risk-taker
  • Introvert to Extrovert


Reality + Dreams + Determination = A Successful Life

What do you value most deeply?

The quality of our lives depends on the quality of the decisions we make.

What do you want out of life?

Adopting pre-packaged values without much thought exposes you to the risk of inconsistency with your true values. It can make you a hypocrite where your claims of your belief differ from how you behave.

1. Goals

Set Goals. Higher-level thinking, synthesis, visualization, prioritization.

Your values determine what you want, i.e. your goals. Life is like a game where you seek to overcome the obstacles that stand in the way of achieving your goals. You get better at this game through practice. The game consists of a series of choices that have consequences. You have the freedom to make whatever choices you want, though it’s best to be mindful of their consequences.

Achieving your goals isn’t just about moving forward. They might also be keeping what you do have or minimizing the rate of loss.

Avoid setting goals based on what you think you can achieve. Thus requires some faith that you really can achieve anything, even if you don’t know how you will do it at the moment.

To acieve your goals you have to prioritize, and that includes rejecting good alternatives. You can have virtually anything you want, but you can’t have everything you want.

It is important not to confuse goals and desires. Desires are typically first-order consequences. For example, a goal might be physical fitness, while a desire is the urge to eat good-tasting food.

2. Problems

Identify and don’t tolerate problems. Perception, intolerance of badness (regardless of severity), synthesis

The pain of problems is a call to find solutions rather than a reason for unhappiness and inaction.

Most problems are potential improvements screaming at you. It is essential to bring problems to the surface.

Problems can be harsh realities that are unpleasant to look at. Thinking about them can produce anxiety. People often worry more about apearing to not have problems than about achieving their desired goals.

Some people are unable to distinguish big problems from small ones.

When identifying problems, it is important to remain centered and logical. Be very precise in specifying your problems.

Don’t confuse problems with causes.

Once you identify your problems, you must not tolerate them.

3. Diagnoses

Diagnose the problems to root causes. Hyper-logical, willing to “touch the nerve”, seeing multiple possiblities.

You will be more effective if you focus on diagnosis and design rather than jumping to solutions. Diagnosing and design are what spark strategic thinking.

You must be calm and logical. You must get at the root causes. Root causes manifest themslves over and over again as the deep-seated reasons behind the actions that cause problems. It is important to distinguish root causes from proximate causes. Proximate causes typically are the actions or lack of actions that lead to problems. Proximate causes are typucally described via verbs. Root causes are often described with adjectives.

More than anything else, what differentiates people who live up to their potential from those who don’t is a willingness to look at themselves and others objectively.

Pain + Reflection = Progress

4. Design

Design a plan for eliminating the problems. Visualization, practicality, creativity.

Creating a design is like writing a movie script in that you visualize who will do what through time in order to achieve the goal.

Write down the plan. The plan connect your goals to the tasks. Don’t loose sight of the goals while focusing on the tasks. Be as detailed as possible, include implications (costs, dates/times, people, etc.).

Designing is very important because it determines what you will have to do to be effective. Don’t become preoccupied with execution.

5. Task

Do what is set out in the plan. Self discipline, good work habits, results orientation, proactivity

The importance of good work habits is vastly underrated. It is critical to know each fay what you need to do and have the descipline to do it. People with poor work habits almost almost randomly react to the stuff that comes at them and can’t bring themselves to do the things they need to do but don’t like to do.


This process is iterative. If this process is working, each step with change much slower than the next. People who are having a hard time achieving their goals use this process backwards. They stick rigidly to specified taks, changing their plans, goals, and values, going from problem to problem without finding a solution.

Remember that you need to do each step independently from the other steps.

The process goes better if you are as accurate as possible in all respects, including assessing your strengths and weaknesses and adapting them.

While these steps require different abilities, you don’t have to be good at all of them. This isn’t school, you can have other people do the work for you. Seek help from others. This requires you to put your ego aside and objectively reflect on your strengths and weaknesses. Having a weakness is like missing a sense – if you can’t visualize what it is, it’s hard to perceive not having it.


  • Trust in truth
  • Be extremely open
  • Have integrity and demand it from others. Never say anything about a person you wouldn’t say to them directly.
  • Be radically transparent
  • Don’t tolerate dishonesty
  • Create a culture in which it is okay to make mistakes but unacceptable not to identify, analyze, and learn from them.
  • Be assertive and open-minded at the same time.
  • Don’t treat all options as equally valuable.
  • Recognizde that peopkle are built very differently. Think about their different values, abilities, and skills.
  • Remember that people who see things and think on way often have difficulty communicating and relating to people who see things and think another way.
  • Look for people who have lots of great questions.


*Principles by Ray Dalio