Vishesh Nagpal

What must a generalist do to contain his curiosities?

I gave an LLM ten years of my journal entries and asked it a bunch of questions. I also fed it an export from readwise (my read-it-later app), my updated resume, and a list of '100 Things I Want'.

When asked to define myself in a few words it said 'Generalist with Diverse Interests'.

Spot on, I felt.

I love problem solving in general. And my creative interests span wide. Can you relate?

To me its a loveable trait but a world of abundance creates a poverty of focus. I do not like when I meet someone who is an expert in a field and in general seems to be as curious as myself. :P

In his essay The Top Idea in Your Mind, Paul Graham writes: "You can't directly control where your thoughts drift. If you're controlling them, they're not drifting. But you can control them indirectly, by controlling what situations you let yourself get into. That has been the lesson for me: be careful what you let become critical to you. Try to get yourself into situations where the most urgent problems are ones you want to think about."

Richard Feynman, who is known for his cleverness (wise use of mind) would love this idea. He had a system for increasing the probability of having brilliant ideas: The 12 favourite problems.

"You have to keep a dozen of your favourite problems constantly present in your mind, although by and large they will lay in a dormant state. Every time you hear a new trick or a new result, test it against each of your twelve problems to see whether it helps." - Richard Feynman

As I understand - Focusing on what you want more of primes your mind to ‘catch’ the right solutions. Lovely!

Incorporating the lens of my favourite problems into my day to day has allowed me to filter the insights I earn. And to channelise their relevance. I am hopeful this shall lead to compounding of my curiosity in ways that aren’t purely for entertainment.

It’s a reliable, grounding, and empowering technique. With this approach, everything we learn becomes an opportunity, a step towards solving problems that are important to us.

How to find your 12 favourite problems?

It's not necessary to feed an LLM and ask it to make a list of the areas of your life, lay all problems and projects you keep journaling about and other possible projects that might seem interesting to you in some way - and then spit out patterns.

It'll still require a lot of sifting to find gold.

So you may as well make a long list manually and select a dozen or so of projects/ opportunities/ problems that are relevant to your life goals. These list is of course dynamic and keeps evolving per life phase.

Namasteezy 🤗

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