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Figuring Out What You Should Be Doing

I’m currently trying to figure out my Hedgehog Concept.

The Hedgehog Concept comes from Jim Collins’ book Good To Great. His book explains how good businesses become great businesses. However, his idea is exactly what INFPs need to achieve personal success.

The Hedgehog Concept

Our Hedgehog Concept is what we should be doing.

In the parable of the fox and hedgehog, the fox goes from one thing to another, trying new ways to try to catch the hedgehog. He attempts to catch the hedgehog with different tricks without success. Meanwhile, the hedgehog does the one thing that it excels at. It curls up into a ball, pointing all its quills outward. The hedgehog knows what it’s good at and sticks with it.

INFPs behave like foxes. We go from one shiny thing to the next. If we don’t succeed on our first try, we find another passion. We never become as successful as those who stick to their Hedgehog Concept.

Our Hedgehog Concept must meet three requirements:

1. something we’re passionate about
2. something that we can be great at
3. something that drives our happiness engine

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The Rule of Two

As human beings we are ingrained to make certain types of choices. However, our choice often seems to make us unhappy even though we are sure we made the right decision. It’s not understanding the nature of choosing that causes unhappiness.

Our three basic choices:

More vs Less

If given the choice between more of a good thing or less of good thing, most people would choose more. If we asked fifty people whether they would rather receive $20 or $10. Most would choose $20. This choice doesn’t mean that people are greedy. It means that we’re inherently designed for choosing abundance over lack.

Sooner vs Later

If we asked those same people if they would rather have the $20 now or next month. Most would choose to have the $20 now. This choice doesn’t mean we can’t delay gratification. It means that if all things are equal, we prefer the certainty of now over some unknown future where we may not be around to receive the $20.

Better vs Worse

Finally, if we asked those people, if they would prefer to have the $20 in cash or as a cashier’s check. Most people would choose cash because cash is more convenient to spend and therefore subjectively better. This choice doesn’t mean that we all want things easier. It means we prefer choosing the options that improves our lives the most.

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Rediscovering our luck

I’ve always been lucky. It started when my family had to flee my native country and start all over dirt-poor. My dad was forty and I was five. I was even luckier when the first company to employ my dad closed. I ended up moving away from my only friend at 10 years old. The luckiest thing to happen to me occurred at age 22. After months of working up the nerve to ask this girl I liked out on a date, she stood me up.

Immigrating to America allowed me an education. Had we stayed, I would be doing back-breaking labor in a country where the average annual salary is $3000 US/year. My dad getting laid off forced us to move to a city with activities that held my interest, activities unavailable in a town of 2000 people. So instead of drinking at the lake on weekends during my high school years, I was competing in fencing at the local university. Moving to a big city kept me out of trouble and out of jail.

Because the girl didn’t show, I decided to dance for the first time. I was too disappointed to be self-conscious. So that night, I discovered my love for dancing. Four years later, my future wife noticed me on the dance floor at a club. We started taking ballroom, swing and tango classes together. Those dance lessons taught us to work together to excel in a cooperative activity. They taught us about our differing learning styles and the ways we dealt with frustration and conflict. I attribute part of the success of our marriage to what we learned about each other in those early dance lessons.

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Making a Better Decision

I love TED videos because they make me rethink my view of the world. In the video, Harvard psychologist and happiness expert Dan Gilbert explains why we make bad decisions.

I’m going to explain how I think it applies to INFPs.

Since the video is long, here are the important parts:

  1. Expected Value of Anything = (Odds of Gain) x (Value of Gain)
  2. People make poor decisions because we make errors in estimating Odds of Gain and errors in estimating Value of Gain.
  3. Using memory makes us prone to errors in Odds.
  4. Shifting comparisons make us prone to errors in Value

In the video, Dan gives specific examples about how people commonly make mistakes estimating Odds of Gain and Value of Gain.

How an INFP Values Anything

INFPs value things ideally in order to get our ideal outcome.

The basic formula of Expected Value of Anything = (Odds of Gain) x (Value of Gain) becomes:

Ideal Expected Value of Anything = (Maximum Odds of Gain) x (Maximum Value of Gain).

In other words:

Perfection = (Being Almost Positive We’ll Get What We Want) x (What We Get Is Everything We Wanted)

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What Does It Mean

It’s officially been one year since I launched my blog. I’d like to thank all my readers for reading my very long posts and for commenting. I appreciate it so much.

My favorite card in the Tarot major arcana is the Fool. I think The Fool is the INFP card. He represents wisdom without reason. He represents the beginning of a journey and journey’s end. Like INFPs, we are always starting our journey to our Ideal Self and that the same time, we are who we are.

In one hand, the Fool holds a flower that represents the appreciation for beauty. Over his shoulder is a stick representing wisdom which dangles a small bag with the few belongings he actually needs. At his foot, there’s a dog which represents reality or the real world always nipping at his heels. The Fool seems oblivious to the precipice that he’s about to step over. INFPs, like the Fool, live on the edge of reality always moments from falling over and being lost forever in our dream world.

The Fool is the card of infinite possibilities. It’s also the card of blind faith. When it appears in the spread, it can signal a restarting of your life and that great change is coming. I like the Fool card because it reminds me of my favorite quote by T.S. Eliot: “We shall not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started… and know the place for the first time.”

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Blog Review: Year One

On April 1st, this blog will be a year old. Yes, I chose that date on purpose.

So how do I feel I did? Okay, I guess.

That’s not a great answer. Unfortunately, this year that’s the best answer I have because I didn’t set clear goals when I started this blog. When I set clear goals for success, happiness is simple.

With clear, measurable goals, I get one of two results. Either I complete my goals and after having a success, I get a self-esteem boost which makes me happy. Or I don’t complete my goals and after having a failure event, I am unhappy. Those two states are productive states for me because I celebrate when I’m happy and I make new plans when I’m unhappy. I don’t mope when an action doesn’t get my desired results because I start thinking about all the possible new actions I should take next.

For this blog, I avoided measurable goals. I have a bad tendency not set goals when I’m in a low period because I don’t want to risk failing. It’s a vicious cycle. I start a new project to boost my self-esteem and to get myself out of my down cycle, but then I avoid setting goals. I feel great for a few weeks or months because the project is something new and exciting. However as my project continues, I feel less and less motivated because I haven’t set goals so I don’t know if I’m doing good or bad. Eventually, I’m just doing something new that’s become old and I forget why I bothered in the first place which puts me back in my down cycle.

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Special is as special does

I’m special. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator told me so. As an INFP, I’m 1-5% of the total population. On the days I want to be more special, I quote the 1% number from Keirsey’s Please Understand Me instead of the 5% number from Luckily, I don’t believe everything I read.

Being 1-5% just makes me different not special. I haven’t done anything particularly special. As an INFP, I’m aware of our need to feel special in a world that just recognizes us as different. However, instead of doing things that make me feel special, I waste time telling people I’m special in various subtle ways like quoting Myers-Briggs stats. It’s like being the guy who tells you he’s going to be famous and then has to move back in with parents because he couldn’t find a job that wasn’t beneath his sense of specialness.

People admire Olympic athletes and entrepreneurs for a reason. People don’t admire the natural inborn talent. We’ve all heard stories about the valedictorian that ends up working at a bookstore or the kooky genius that never made it out of his parent’s house. We admire Olympic athletes and entrepreneurs because they’ve proved it. They dedicated years to athletic training or risked everything to invest in their company. These people become recognized as special because they’ve done something special.

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From the outside in

As an INFP, I have external space that’s a physical reflection of my internal space. For some INFPs, that external space might be their writing table or a reading nook. It could be as small as a shoebox of memories to sort or as large as their entire house. For me, that external space is my home office.

Since I only get things organized to a certain point inside my head, my office has never been completely organized. I have piles. Stuff gets put away to a certain point but I’ve always had orphaned piles that have no place to go. Much like the thoughts in my head.

In my internal space, my current projects are those piles in need of organization. At any given time, I’m migrating between multiple projects, but as I go from working on one to another, they never quite get put away in my head. So as I’m working on one project, I might get an idea for something else. Those projects are like separate piles occupying my brain and sometimes the piles fall onto each other.

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