I have an Amazon Prime account and I do all kinds of shit with it. For instance, I recently revised: Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice
(💖Wonder Woman💖 and some unruly kids).
If you clicked on that link and are done drooling, let’s talk further.
So, I don’t intend to talk about the movie but a certain idea that caught my attention. Honestly, it was such a spectacle to see Batman winning over Superman. Think about it! What were the odds? How could a human (Batman) possibly defeat one of the most powerful beings (Superman) of the DC universe?
There can be several reasons behind it. But the umbrella reason is far more simpler than Kryptonite.
Interestingly enough, this is why you were not able to complete that last book you tagged boring just after 70 pages or that gym membership that never saw you after 8th January. Let’s develop this idea further.
Decomposing into dimensions
P = A * B
Look at the above equation. I want you to maximize the value of P. I am certain that it will not be very difficult for you to figure out the answer, which is 100. How did you do it? My guess, you increased A to its maximum value i.e. 10 and when you couldn’t increase A further, you began increasing B to its limit, thereby reaching the maximum product 10*10 = 100. That’s cute, how clever we act inside math books and just disregard the entire reasoning outside them.
Most of the tasks (goals too) that we create for ourselves can be modeled into a very similar format. For example, if I ask you to run 1 km, P will be the distance and A and B will be your speed and time. So here, you can complete 1 km in a variety of ways. You can run for 1 hr at a speed of 1 km/hr or your can run for 30 min with a speed of 2 km/hr.
But a every interesting thing happens if I ask you to run a total of 100 km. Most of us lose track of the dimensions of the problem. Some of us run for like 5 km on day 1, take rest on day 2,3 and 4, suddenly feel motivated and run for 4 km on the 5th day and then take weekends off. It is easy to see that this is a very convenient way to just run 9 km in 7 days and quitting.
The problem is, we didn’t model the goal correctly. We laid variable emphasis on factors involved to achieve it. Ideally this feat was easily achievable in 3 weeks with 5 km per day at a speed of 5km/hr (Run for an hour). That is:
Total distance = Speed * Time per day * Number of days
Some of us laid a great emphasis on running for larger duration on some days (covering the guilt of inconsistency). Others just ran at a sporadic pace while chatting on their cellphones. Important point is, how most of us, tried to inflate a single factor out of proportions which is grossly unsustainable. Ever tried completing the entire syllabus a night before? Yes! We have all been there.
Think about a sports team, say Football. How do you think, this equation would span out over there?
For a team to win, we can identify teamwork and individual performance as two broad dimensions of the problem (of course there can be several other dimensions inside these two as well). If a player assumes the problem to be uni dimensional and just keeps on improving her game without any regard to her position in a team, what do you think will happen?
Art of optimization
The most important things that I learned from my college education is ironically not related to my major. I took a course called Principles of Management, into which a lot of people also enrolled because it was a kind of compulsory affair. That course, did talk about a lot of things but one of the key takeaway was to chart a plan before attacking the problem itself. I very strongly feel that this is a stage where a majority of us go wrong.
I have been very guilty of approaching problems without doing a dimensional analysis. It is like trying to maximize the volume of a cube by just maximizing its base area and not adjusting its height. A lot of things that are substantial can only we realized if we put in persistent efforts and if you just disregard this factor of time from the equation it becomes really difficult to compensate even after overclocking other factors. For instance, if learning French is your goal, you can’t just practice it for 10 hours a day for few weeks and beat a person who makes it a habit of learning 20 new words daily. Yes she is slow, but she will get there.
If you ask me, I think the best way is to assess the dimensions of the problem and then align your caliber accordingly rather than just cutting out on dimensions that you are not good with and exhausting yourself in those areas that you are decent with. You can’t grow without working on your fragile ends.
For instance, if you think that you have a limited assimilation capacity of say 2 hours (Of course spread throughout the day), accept it! And then pace your syllabus accordingly over days, weeks and months before your examination. Trying to indulge into a cramming session of 12 hours a day, 3 days before the exam will do you minimal good. Basically pace your dimensions as per your strengths to achieve the desired output.
Remember, to maximize the product, better to tune all the multiplicands!
A system of balances
The idea of being cognizant about dimensions in a problem is not very intuitive. We like to swim into the stream of extremes. We binge on food, TV shows, swiping right and what not. It is convenient and our brain would rather be Fast and Furious than Slow and Steady.
This is how the hare lost to tortoise, who ran with moderate pace (Dimension 1) and ran long enough (Dimension 2). This is exactly how Batman overpowered Superman by carefully analyzing factors involved to win the fight.
And I think this is how you will rekindle that old book and that neglected gym membership too.
Note: Only because you read till the end => Drool button!😻