Moment 136 3 VITAL Questions To Ask Yourself If You're Feeling Trapped In Life (Relationships, Work & Financially) Adam Alter

Summary Notes


In a discussion about the pervasive feeling of being stuck, Speaker A reveals that people often feel trapped in various aspects of their lives, from finances to relationships and creative endeavors. Through a global survey, Speaker A has observed that this sense of stuckness is a common, immediate concern. The conversation with Speaker B delves into the emotional experience of stuckness and the subjective nature of feeling progress or stagnation. They explore the balance between perseverance and knowing when to quit, with Speaker A referencing works by Angela Duckworth and Annie Duke to highlight the complexity of this decision. The dialogue also introduces the concept of a "friction audit," a strategy Speaker A uses to simplify problems and identify obstacles, which can be applied to both personal life and business to facilitate growth and alleviate the burdens of hardship.

Summary Notes

Definition and Perception of Stuckness

  • People often feel stuck in various aspects of life, such as relationships, jobs, and finances.
  • The feeling of stuckness is subjective and varies from person to person.
  • Stuckness can range from broad life situations to specific creative or business endeavors.
  • Recognition of stuckness is often immediate, indicating it is a prevalent and top-of-mind issue for many.

"People are actually stuck in relationships, in jobs, financially stuck, becoming much lonelier as a species."

This quote highlights the common areas where people feel stuck, emphasizing the widespread nature of the issue.

"And I find that people, usually within about 15 seconds, start typing a response, which means that stuckness is very top of mind..."

The prompt response in a survey about stuckness demonstrates its immediate recognition and relevance to individuals.

"So there's a very broad range. And I find that almost everyone, in at least one respect, with a bit of time, comes up with something."

This quote illustrates the diversity of situations where people feel stuck, suggesting that it is a universal experience.

Emotional Experience of Being Stuck

  • The feeling of being stuck is subjective and can be recognized emotionally by the individual.
  • Being stuck does not always equate to negative feelings; it can be part of a process that some individuals enjoy.
  • Understanding one's emotions regarding stuckness is a crucial step towards addressing it.

"You know, if you're stuck, you can feel it because you could be in the same situation and not feel stuck."

This quote indicates that the feeling of stuckness is a personal experience that depends on one's perspective on their situation.

"I had a conversation with Malcolm Gladwell, who was telling me about his dad, who was a math professor, and his dad was trying to solve a math conundrum for 30 years... But he loved it."

This anecdote exemplifies that being stuck in a situation does not necessarily lead to frustration; it can be a fulfilling challenge for some individuals.

"...once you come to grips with the emotional part of it, you can usually bring some sort of strategies and actions to bear and start to move yourself."

The quote suggests that emotional acceptance of being stuck is a precursor to finding strategies to overcome the situation.

Strategies to Overcome Stuckness

  • There are strategies and actions that can help individuals move past the feeling of being stuck.
  • The author believes that there is a way to get unstuck in almost every case and has written a book on the subject.

"I'm convinced of that, and that's why I wrote the book, because I think there is a way to get unstuck in almost every case."

The speaker's conviction in the possibility of overcoming stuckness is the motivation behind authoring a book to help others.

Relationship Between Perseverance and Quitting

  • The spectrum of perseverance versus quitting is well-explored in literature.
  • Angela Duckworth's book "Grit" advocates for perseverance.
  • Annie Duke's book "Quit" presents a case for quitting when things are not working out.
  • Both authors are sophisticated thinkers and acknowledge that the decision to persevere or quit is not absolute.

"You've got Angela Duckworth's grit, which is all about sticking through and continuing on. And then you've got Annie Duke, who wrote the book quit, which is about quitting."

This quote highlights the two contrasting philosophies on perseverance and quitting, emphasizing the existence of literature that supports both approaches.

Opportunity Costs in Decision Making

  • Consideration of opportunity costs is important when deciding whether to persevere or quit.
  • Evaluating if there are better alternatives available can influence the decision to move on from a current endeavor.
  • The speaker provides a personal example of leaving actuarial science for something more appealing.

"How do you know when you are stuck that it's time to persevere versus time to quit? And I think it's worth thinking about the opportunity costs."

The quote emphasizes the importance of considering what one might be missing out on by continuing a certain path, suggesting that opportunity costs play a critical role in the decision to persevere or quit.

Evaluating Progress Towards Goals

  • Research suggests it is usually beneficial to persevere beyond initial difficulties.
  • A key factor in deciding whether to persevere is assessing progress towards an end state.
  • If the gap between current abilities and desired skills is not closing, it may be an indication to quit.

"Is the delta between where I am and where I'd like to be shrinking over time, the gap between those two shrinking? Or is it staying the same, or is it even getting larger? And if it's staying the same or getting larger, then I'm probably not getting closer. And that's a good indication that I should probably quit."

This quote advises on how to measure progress and suggests that a lack of improvement despite efforts is a strong signal that it might be time to quit.

Speaker B's Quitting Framework

  • Speaker B reflects on their own experiences with quitting.
  • They provide a framework for making quitting decisions.
  • The framework assesses whether the difficulty of the task is worth the effort required to complete it.

"Are you thinking of quitting because it's hard? You're running a marathon. It's the last mile of the race. It's hard, but it's worth it. So if it's hard and it's not worth it, quit. If it's hard and it's worth it, stay the course."

The quote presents a simple yet effective framework to help decide whether to quit or persevere: evaluate if the effort is justified by the value of the outcome.

The Unassailability of the Framework

  • The framework is described as unassailable, meaning it is beyond criticism and makes total sense.
  • It is broad enough to encompass any situation.
  • The distinction between something being "just hard" versus "it sucks" is emphasized.
  • The framework is central to Speaker A's book, which discusses the value of recognizing and quitting emotionally unrewarding tasks.
  • Quitting is advised when something "sucks," but if it can be improved, continuation is recommended, like in marriage or with a boss.

"This framework seems to me unassailable. In other words, there's nothing. I can't imagine that anything here could be disagreed with, because it makes total sense and it's nice and broad."

The quote highlights the robustness and broad applicability of the framework in question, suggesting it is widely agreeable and practical.

Hardship as a Catalyst for Growth

  • The book by Speaker A discusses the importance of hardship in personal growth and success.
  • Hardship is often misinterpreted as a problem due to evolutionary instincts to conserve resources.
  • The book posits that good outcomes frequently come after overcoming difficulties.
  • Human growth and other positive developments often require enduring hardship.

"And I think if something sucks, it's emotionally unrewarding and you hate it and you're grinding through it most of the time, you should quit. And you have here this one limb to your model that says, if you can make it suck less, continue on marriage very often."

This quote delineates the need to differentiate between challenging situations that are worth persisting through and those that are emotionally draining and should be abandoned.

"Good stuff happens when things are hard. And because we are human and we have been evolutionarily, I don't know, penned into the situation where hardship is seen as a problem."

Speaker A conveys the idea that while humans are hardwired to avoid hardship, embracing challenges is often necessary for achieving positive outcomes.

Simplifying Complex Problems: The Friction Audit

  • Simplifying complex problems helps identify sticking points, a process Speaker B refers to as a "friction audit."
  • Speaker A emphasizes the importance of knowing what to ignore and focusing on the crucial aspects of a problem.
  • The concept of subtraction—removing non-essential elements—is highlighted as a valuable skill.
  • The book "Subtract" by Leidy Klotz is mentioned as a resource on this topic.
  • Speaker A uses the friction audit in business consulting to improve efficiency and effectiveness rather than just enhancing the product.

"The best way to get unstuck is to simplify the problem as much as possible. That way you can identify what the sticking points are. I call this simplifying of the complex, a friction audit."

This quote explains the friction audit as a method for simplifying complex problems to find and resolve the core issues.

"What's really hard is being able to say, subtract that, subtract that, subtract that. This is the thing. This is the nugget, the kernel. This is what I should be focusing on."

Speaker A stresses the difficulty and importance of identifying and concentrating on the essential elements of a complex situation, advocating for a subtractive approach to problem-solving.

"And there's a great book called Subtract by Lighty Klotz that's on this exact topic."

The quote references a book that delves into the concept of subtraction as a strategy for addressing problems, reinforcing the theme of simplification.

Importance of Removing Friction in Business

  • Focusing on removing obstacles can lead to significant increases in conversion rates.
  • Eliminating friction can be more effective and less expensive than enhancing product attractiveness.
  • The process of identifying and removing friction is termed a "friction audit."
  • A friction audit can often improve conversion with minimal cost.

"But where you get your massive return is not by focusing on making the carrot more attractive, it's by removing the stick that stops people from doing what you'd like them to do."

This quote emphasizes that the key to achieving high returns is not to improve the product's allure but to remove the barriers that prevent customers from taking desired actions.

Friction Audit Process

  • The friction audit begins by asking, "What's getting in the way?"
  • Businesses do not ask this question enough, often focusing on additions rather than identifying and removing obstacles.
  • The audit involves introspection and team discussions to identify points of friction.

"And that friction audit process. I guess it starts with that question, which is like, what's getting in the way?"

This quote introduces the friction audit process, which is initiated by questioning what obstacles are impeding progress or customer actions.

Application to Individual Lives

  • Individuals can benefit from identifying and addressing personal friction points.
  • Asking oneself about the top three friction-causing aspects of life can be enlightening.
  • Improving life quality can be achieved by reducing or eliminating these friction points.

"What are the three things in your life right now that cause you the most friction? [...] How much better would your life be? And people often say, 100% better."

This quote suggests that by identifying and addressing the three most significant personal friction points, individuals can dramatically improve their quality of life.

Encouraging Open Communication

  • Regularly asking about friction points can be a good habit in both personal and professional contexts.
  • Asking these questions can lead to unexpected and insightful answers.
  • This practice can also foster empathy and strengthen relationships.

"There's nothing better than being asked that question. If someone asks you that, the degree of caring, if they actually seem like they want to be able to help, that will melt any barriers between you and another person."

The quote highlights the positive impact of asking others about their challenges and offering help, which can deepen connections and demonstrate genuine care.

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