“The Holy Grail of Self Improvement” – found…?

In his excellent Ribbonfarm guest post “The Holy Grail of Self Improvement”, Tiago Forté of Forté Labs wrestles earnestly and at times brilliantly with the deeper questions of human motivation, prompting this comment response from me in which I sketched out some of the psychological framework I’ve been thinking about in recent months and years that can supply a solution to these age-old questions. Here is my comment reproduced in full with minor edits for stand-alone post readability:


I had been meaning to chime in on this for quite a while, and never quite found the time to go past a few bullet point style notes I had scribbled down, but since no one else had raised a few key missing points, here they are in raw/unedited form…

1) Solid post on many of the surrounding concerns, and kudos for keeping it balanced on Freud vs. Mainstream (post-1950s-ish) Psychology. While Freud was wrong about a lot of things, he was also right about some important ones, at least in the aggregate, specifically the overall role of the Unconscious.

Worth pointing out that he got many of the intial perspectives from the French Psychiatrists using Hypnosis at the Salpetriere hospital in Paris in the late 19th century, but was himself never that adept at the processes, hence his approximation of trance states by way of “Free Association” lying on the proverbial couch (made easier by the therapist sitting behind the client, and her voice thereby appearing disembodied).

Ultimately, all Getting Things Done (GTD) is about alignment of Conscious Mind plans/goals, and Unconscious Mind (UCM) readying of resources, and the many largely unconscious activities it performs in service of such a plan. You pointed toward this with the 2006 Meta Analysis quote:

[ The upshot is that by accepting that habits, as emergent patterns, cannot be directly programmed to achieve certain goals, we are led to an uncomfortable conclusion: that despite being partially defined in terms of future intentions, habits cannot be designed and executed strictly according to upfront intentions. This conclusion neatly sums up the current state of affairs in our understanding of behavior change, as summarized by a 2006 meta-analysis: “Across dozens of studies on behavior change interventions, researchers have found that the conscious mind’s sincere, concerted intention to change behavior has little relationship to actual change in behavior.” ]

2) Much of the talk about habits remains rather nebulous without a foundation in a substrate, which we actually DO have in the form of Myelination = the coating of much-used Neural Network pathways with fats to act as a sort of “electrical tape” insulation (forming the “White Matter” of the brain), speeding up firing/propagation by up to a factor of 200x if I recall correctly.

So I was surprised to see it brought up nowhere in the post or on the thread. Myelination is an ongoing, steady process based on behavior frequency, duration, & repetition. At the outset of a totally new learning task, there is none, and every single action feels slow & painful (like at first learning how to drive). Then a very light “coating” begins to stabilize things, but more in the sense of “tender green shoots”.

With time/repetition, the coating will thicken, and the learning solidify, performance speed up greatly, and likely also some additional synaptic density be formed (= more Grey Matter volume in the responsible areas), though we can ignore this last part here.

3) So in some ways the whole game is to allow Myelination to set in completely enough to “burn in” the tasks/skill/learning without first running out of Dopamine/motivation to keep going. 2-3 weeks is near the minimum time, but that doesn’t guarantee that things will not get “stripped back down” if the behavior is not pursued further.

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So the Microsoft Surface is still D.O.A. (as predicted a long time ago…)

“…One of the bright spots in Microsoft’s (MSFT) quarterly report last week was that Surface sales more than doubled sequentially. The software giant rang up $893 million in sales of its Windows-fueled tablet during the holiday quarter, [up from $400M in Q3.]

However, the more that one thinks about it, the worse that Microsoft’s $893 million in Surface sales becomes.


How many Surfaces did Microsoft actually sell during the quarter? Well, the Surface 2 starts at $449, but the Surface Pro 2 can set buyers back as much as $1,799. …the the cheapest Surface Pro 2 — the one running Windows 8.1 Pro instead of the scaled-down Windows RT operating system — starts at $899. So when Microsoft says $893 million in tablet sales it likely translates into a little more than a million devices.

Apple on the other hand sold more than 26 million tablets [$11.5 billion worth] during the [September] quarter. If we look at the unit levels sequentially, Microsoft’s sales grew by less than a million sequentially while Apple sold nearly 12 million more iPads than it did during the prior three months.”

Note: This is not meant as particularly pro-Apple, and Android sales figures are also impressive and are in essence blocking Microsoft’s entry into a lower-priced tier (which is likely why MSFT didn’t even try to enter it?). Exact sales figures  and revenues for Android tablet vendors are much harder to come by/break out however, so this comparison of Surface and iPads shall suffice.

The point being: Remember that the Surface was supposed to be the rationale for Windows 8’s formerly-known-as-Metro touch-centric interface, as well as MSFT’s entire “Devices and Services” strategy. From the formerly massively dominant PC OS vendor, such miniscule share for the Surface line is nothing short of embarrassing.

Let’s just say for argument’s sake that Android tablets sold the exact same number as iPads (it’s likely more in the direction of 60 / 40), so the total being 2 x 26M = 52M. 1M or so Surface tablets sold would be about 2% share!

Again, this is what Ballmer et al. essentially bet the farm on in terms of trying to regain some relevance in tablets and Mobile. Except that a 10.6″, 2 pound device (the Pro) qualifies as neither, as I predicted repeatedly since long ago (6/2012).

Will MSFT’s next CEO simply put an end to this entire embarrassment and kill the Surface line, in order to concentrate on all enterprise/cloud services, all the time?

Has Google already capitulated in the Chat App wars?

Two brief items: Messaging Apps are now bigger than social networks
Googles mobile search just got a boost from Facebook

= Google capitulation to the Chat App economy?

The latter deal especially trying to salvage things for search, given that Google+ went nowhere?

The former is sign of my long-held conviction that Google made a massive strategic mistake in trying to “fight the last war” against FB with Google+, while in the process missing out almost completely on the “Messaging Revolution” of recent years, which by virtue of owning Android they SHOULD have owned, or at least fast-followed…

At a minimum Zuckerberg’s willingness to drop $19B (10% of his company!) on WhatsApp last year (2/2014) should have awoken them to the threat, but I’ve never seen much of an effort to even play. Breaking out Hangouts from the tarnished Google+ brand was certainly far too late to matter much.