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Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” — Leonardo da Vinci
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Tuesday 8 May 2018

Understanding the mechanism that lets one succeed

I might not be the right person to talk about success, but I have written this article as an observer of successful people, and as a person trying the understand the common traits they display (along with trying to understand if those traits really will help anyone succeed). Don't worry, I'm not going to talk about the well-known traits like work hard, be sincere, never quit etc. Because, not all hard working people succeed. Not all people who work on their passion day and night succeed in life, by either earning money or getting recognized for their efforts. When we look at the set of traits exhibited by successful people, we almost always forget to check if there are people who exhibit the same set of traits and yet remain unsuccessful. Thus, the conclusion we derive from the traits we observe in highly successful people will only help us paint a picture of how a successful person would be. But it will never give us means to understand if exhibiting the same set of traits ourselves will benefit us in the exact same way. A successful person's circumstances influence his success greatly. In sense, we could say that many successful people were born lucky, or was lucky enough to be in a situation that rewards hard work and sincerity. Is it really possible to succeed if you aren't lucky?

Our current societal structure is highly systematic, and built to keep people confined to where they are supposed to belong. This controls the information flow among people, and the degree to which a person's words are taken seriously. To better understand the societal structure, we must look at people as agents following a fixed set of rules as they navigate through there life. Even if people around you find your skills or your work impressive, they are still agents and they do not have the power to help you benefit from your skills. Even if they had the power they will let you benefit from your skills only if they can themselves benefit from what they receive from you. This lays the foundation of the capitalist business society. Thus, agents are predictable and have definite set of rules they would always follow. So to move forward, it is necessary to satisfy these agents to get what we want.

Success and its fundamental drive

Even if a person has an artistic and unstructured working pattern, by living in a society filled with average people who do not have the incentive to appreciate the marvelous work produced by such a person, they rarely get appreciated. Many geniuses of the past weren't rewarded for their work during their lifetime. And some of them were forced to commit suicide. Working towards our passion, and enjoying the process is fundamentally what is required to keep us working almost always, all day and night. But this amount of effort will only be possible if there is a constant support system that help keep ourselves on the track. This is usually given by a continuous reward system. A continuous reward system is necessary to keep people progressing at their best and eventually achieve what they wish to achieve, by progressing one step at a time. If you want to become a millionaire, you must avoid thinking about how to become one. Rather, you must find the best reward system that would eventually get you there as you keep accumulating your reward through the system you choose. You need a system to get you to were you want to belong.

At the cognitive level, it is similar to how video games keep a person "stuck" to the game indefinitely. Video games work by setting goals the player can reach, with enough effort. The player has to make constant progress, and the progress made by the player at each moment is measured, and the player is presented with this measurement. Observing this measurement would let the player understand the game's progress and set tangible goals. Multilayer games and e-sports usually always have a goal you could set, regardless of the number of hours you spent playing the game. In reality, at the cognitive level, games are also considered equal to work. But the difference is, the real world does not have incentives designed to help you progress and achieve your goals. You must learn to set tangible goals and progressively improve your position. In absence of incentives that drive you towards your goals, you must set them manually. And for this to work, the reward must involve real gains.       

The true way to succeed in anything is by setting successive tangible goals that gets you one step closer towards your real goal. But before you start setting goals and achieving them, you must have stayed and experienced the depth of your physic through a compulsory solitary period, with access to all the resources you would need for development. Another common but overlook trait observed among great achievers of the past was, they had all displayed a great degree of craving for a solitary life, along with the means to cop-up with it. 

It is essential to direct our reward mechanisms and incentives towards helping ourselves sustain for a prolonged period of time without any reward, with a hope for a greater reward later. But at one point, we must choose to change and start "claiming the reward". For claiming the reward, it is important to comply with the societal needs. Satisfying what people want is fundamental to becoming successful. People who are directly accessible to us would also have requirements we could satisfy. Smartly satisfying their needs and experiencing being rewarded or criticized (in this case, regardless of how criticism would make you feel, it would be the single most powerful driving force towards making you successful. As constructive criticism teaches you lot more than any book or Internet article can).

Measuring progress 

It is first essential to choose your desired working domain. Measuring progress helps you value your efforts by estimating your reward-effort ratio. Your ultimate  goal will be trying to maximize the reward-effort ratio. Humans have physical limitations which cannot be transcended regardless of how hard they try. Therefore, the rate of increase in the "reward" part of the ratio must be constantly increasing while "effort" must start decreasing. More like most video games which give you more benefits or "strength" to your game avatar, as you progress through your game, which would eventually make your avatar exponentially more efficient than when you started playing the game, the more you get rewarded, the more resources you will have in trying to automate the process of reaching even greater heights. If you are starting a business, and if you wish to expand it drastically, you would construct a more stable business structure that facilitates rigidity and expansion. And you would have employees doing most of the job for you. As you progress, the skill-set you will require to reach even greater heights will be different from the ones which elevated you to your place. It is not required to think about the skills you will need in a distant future, as if you had the tendency to reach that point, it would itself qualify that you can further improve yourself.

This fact will be true across almost all domains. But initially, you won't have a self-sustaining system or a reputation to back you up. So to get there, you will have to make steady progress in your domain. To do that, it is essential for you to measure your progress on each step you take. Measuring progress helps you set the next reachable goal, that you can strive towards in further expanding your value in the domain. A progress measurement system you device will be effective as long as it documents positive progress relative to your achievements and value in your field. "Value" could be a combination of money (kind of essential, cannot be avoided) and reputation.

For the sake of simplicity let me introduce three terms: dynamically constrained intelligence, semi-dynamically constrained intelligence and fully constrained intelligence. Dynamically constrained intelligence is a type of intelligence exhibited by people who do not hold any rigid belief system. These are people who's understanding of things evolves with time, and are more capable of incurring cross-domain knowledge, with the ability to effectively apply their knowledge within its domain or in a different domain. Fully constrained intelligence exhibit the nature of people who stick to consistent and never-changing belief system. These are people who rely (and expect) too much on highly repetitive tasks, which may seem possible to automate with a computer. But the definition can even extend further, claiming them to be people who do not change their belief system for a prolonged amount of time. Semi-dynamically constrained intelligence is a type of intelligence exhibited by seemingly intellectual and rational people who use fixed rules in their reasoning process. These people might appear to be creative and might appear to solve problems intelligently. These are people who specialize in a specific domain, being too good at it as a result of practicing the same art for a prolonged amount of time.

Apart from this, great achievers exhibit dynamically constrained intelligence, which I have elaborated below. 

Exhibiting dynamically constrained intelligence

Dynamically constrained intelligence by definition is trying to incorporate ideologies and inspiration derived from completely unrelated domains, and extend the existing rules known to mankind by exploring the solution space (I’ll explain what a solution space is, shortly).

Most people live there lives being bound by the ideas imparted into them through various sources that are quite commonly accessible, and during most times, these sources are the only ones that may seem tangible. Such people live based on the rules and demands put-forth by these ideologies. Every human is born with dynamically constrained intelligence. It is the everyday life that changes the way humans perceive the world, ultimately adapting the goals and demands their society sets for them. But some manage to avoid being changed, and these people are generally the ones who can bear a great deal of oppression and pain, yet emerge unharmed.

I don’t personally believe that only a select few posses dynamically constrained intelligence. Every human is bound to posses everything our brain has to offer. It is about how one uses there brain, and over time, the kind of usage they adapt determines their intelligence. At adulthood, the cognitive intelligence people learn throughout their childhood days stays persistently, which would usually be difficult to change.

So who are these people who display dynamically constrained intelligence?

People derive their “energy” to work from various sources. Most of us derive our energy to work from the “source” which is, “wanting to live a peaceful life with enough income and with a good family”. We go to colleges in fear of being unable to earn money and we learn to equip ourselves with the necessary skills to get a job and live a decent life.

[These people are not the ones who posses dynamically constrained intelligence.]

There is another group of people (usually a minority) who have their “energy to work” derived from the fact that their “work” is itself “interesting”, more like a game. Programmers who are interested in working at developing modules that run on Linux Kernels derive their energy to work form the “excitement” or the competitive drive to show their peers what they are capable of. Such people usually end up being paid more than the majority and usually hold a decent respect in the society. But the biggest drawback these people display is, being unable to switch to a task that require opposing or contrary skills such as graphic designing. These people will show resentment towards being compelled to do tasks that are even mildly different from their main skill-set.

[These people are also not the ones who posses absolute dynamically constrained intelligence. But they usually posses a great deal of semi-dynamically constrained intelligence. Their working pattern might seem effective or creative. But in reality they strongly stick to the rules at all times, but occasionally break them, by following a working pattern derived from a different but related domains. Or domains they had worked in the past. They depend on excessive hard work to cope with their peers competition. ]

The third group of people (a small minority, but usually end up changing the world or die unknown after living miserably, for not having ways to present their work to the world) derive their “energy to work” from the great passion of understanding the fundamentals of the nature around them. These people reach for the first principles (the fundamental principles which are used in deriving every other concept in use) to understand the world around them. These people follow no rules (I’m not talking about legal rules). They do not recognize the worthiness of an idea or a concept based on who advocated it, or how many people support it. They are people who change how people see the world, and redefine our reality. These people work for the sake of art or for a highly valued ideology, with a quest of trying to make it a reality. dynamically constrained intelligence is the ability to connect abstract concepts, and derive wisdom from unrelated domains. What I have explained here also includes rare geniuses who are born every 30 years, 50 years or 100 years. Most people exhibit pure dynamically constrained intelligence for a long period of time and switch over to fully constrained reasoning for the remainder of their lifetime. Fully constrained intelligence shows the ability to use the already apparent information and concepts to achieve a goal, with the best possible efficiency.  Such people would fall under the previous category. So extreme geniuses are the best examples of people who exhibit pure, and unwavering dynamically constrained intelligence throughout their life.

[These people are the ones who posses dynamically constrained intelligence. Dynamically constrained intelligence is just a mere result of being utterly passionate about an ideology. It is the essence of change that actually drives humans forward. Everyone are born with the necessary tools to exhibit dynamically constrained intelligence. But as a strict rule, only people who derive their energy to work from raw passion or the fundamental motive of wanting to understand how the world works truly exhibit dynamically constrained intelligence; as the tendency to exhibit dynamically constrained intelligence comes from the inability to be confined to a concise set of rules. It is the ability to explore an imaginary world freely, a world of solutions].

Now let me explain what a solution space is: In mathematics, it is possible to represent a particular solution, or simply a relation that relates an input to an output with a set of mathematical symbols. The behavior of this input-output mapping changes when you change the symbols you used in relating them. Or in a different kind of problem, you would have coefficients or constants that are used in forming a relation between the input and the output. So changing these values, lets you alter the relation, and thus create and observe a completely new function. Think of a solution space as constructed by premises you already know. Recursively applying known patterns help us identify correlation in wide range of areas. For each change made in the coefficients or the combination of symbols used in expressing a relation, the equation would represent a completely new “solution”. A solution here, need not be a single value. It could also be an infinite set of values. So, changing the symbolic arrangement or the coefficients in either a random order or in a specific order exhibits completely new solution spaces or, in simple terms, this represents completely new set of values exhibiting completely new patterns. In the beginning of this article, I had written humans exploring the solution space analogous to trying out newer possibilities by applying the already known rules to incur and learn new possibilities.

So to conclude, achieving something great begins with accurately aligning the act of doing what you really wish to keep doing, with the demands of the society. If you serve the society in any way, you immediately get benefited. But if the path you employ in serving the society is exactly what you would like to do given you had the option to not do anything, will excessively augment your level of success. Because, just spending hours of time creating a novel piece of art won't bring you success all by itself. Succeeding at learning to merge what you truly like doing with the society's desires is equivalent to using your "best source of energy" to fuel your work towards your success. Also, you must remember that your options on how you could serve the society depends on where you are, and your family's financial background. But in time, it is possible to expand your choices by choosing the right ones initially. So for each expansion, you go one step further opening up even more choices (and shutting down many older choices). Thus, the path will be different for different people.

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