In our gross misunderstanding of the function of memory, we thought that memory was operated primarily by rote. In other words, you rammed it in until your head was stuffed with facts. What was not realized is that memory is primarily an imaginative process. In fact, learning, memory, creativity are the same fundamental process directed with a different focus. The art and science of memory is about developing the capacity to quickly create images that link disparate ideas. Creativity is the ability to form similar connections between disparate images and to create something new and hurl it into the future. Creativity, is in a sense, future memory.
If the essence of creativity is linking disparate facts and ideas, then the more facility you have making associations, and the more facts and ideas you have at your disposal, the better you’ll be at coming up with new ideas.
The notion that memory and creativity are two sides of the same coin sounds counterintuitive. Remembering and creativity seem like opposite, not complementary, processes. But the idea that they are one and the same is actually quite old, and was once even taken for granted. The Latin root inventio is the basis of two words in our modern English vocabulary: inventory and invention. And to a mind trained in the art of memory, those two ideas were closely linked. Invention was a product of inventorying. In order to invent, one first needed a proper inventory, a bank of existing ideas to draw on. Not just an inventory, but an indexed inventory.
This is what the art of memory was ultimately most useful for. It was not merely a tool for recording but also a tool of invention and composition. The realization that composing depended on a well-furnished and securely available memory formed the basis of rhetorical education in antiquity. Brains were as organized as modern filing cabinets, with important facts, quotations and ideas stuffed into neat mnemonic cubbyholes, where they would never go missing, and where they could be recombined and strung together on the fly. The goal of training one’s memory was to develop the capacity to leap from topic to topic and make new connections between old ideas.
For all but the last few hundred years of human history the dominant worldview was a limited view: resources were limited, human nature was fixed, and spending beyond one’s income was a sin. This essentially conservative perception prevailed until about 1600. Then science and technology shook the foundations. One presumed limit after another was shown to be, in part, false.
The “Don’t worry” theories of population control amount to a reaffirmation of the religious idea of Providence. Professional publicists know there is always a good living to be made by catering to the public’s craving for optimistic reports. Such behavior finds no justification in the attitude of the Buddha, expressed five centuries before Christ: “I teach only two things: the cause of human sorrow and the way to become free of it.” The present work, though written by a non-Buddhist, proceeds along the Buddhist path—first to reveal the causes of human sorrow in population matters and then to uncover promising ways to free ourselves of the sorrow.
Hearing the Buddha’s statement today many people think, “How depressing! Why accept such a pessimistic outlook on life?” But they are wrong: it is not a pessimistic view if we reword it in terms that are more familiar to our science-based society. Reworded: “Here’s something that isn’t working right. I want to fix it, but before I can do that I have to know exactly why it doesn’t work right.” One who looks for causes before seeking remedies should not be condemned as a pessimist. In general, a great deal of looking for causes must precede the finding of remedies.
"My view is, just as an analyst, that any business that is predicated on selling overpriced products to consumers and/or distributors is ultimately a flawed business model."
You've spoken about individuals who shape the world we live in and the particular qualities they share. What is the process these people, "the shapers," go through that perhaps the rest of us do not?
Ray Dalio: I think for everybody, in order to be successful, there are five steps that you go through essentially. But everybody has their goals. What is their goal and passion? So you have goals. And then what happens is you're going after your goals and you encounter your problems. So encountering problems, and then the big difference between people is how they approach those problems. People who get bummed out by the problems don't learn from it. Who learns from them? So those who recognized the problems are excited that they get into those problems or mistakes. Mistakes are learning experiences. The pain that comes for that mistake, every time you have pain it's an indication that something is at odds. So the people who have the pain are the people then who will go into that and realize that if they solve that pain, solve that problem, understand what that is representative of -- not just the one problem -- but that problem is a certain type of problem that will happen over and over and over again in your life, and if you can solve, "How do I deal with that kind of problem?" The third thing that everybody needs to do is, if they have problems on the way to their goals, that they diagnose those problems and they get to the root cause -- the real root cause. The real root is often -- is typically -- what people are like. Can you go to what you're like? Can you go to your mistakes? Can you go to your weaknesses? Right. Can you go to other people's mistakes and weakness? Some people, because of ego barrier, can't do that, so if they don't recognize their own mistakes, their own weaknesses, or other's mistakes and weaknesses -- what the root cause may be and what they're like because of ego barriers -- if they can't go there, they're going to repeat those mistakes. They're going to have them over and over again. So it's the process essentially of saying, at that stage, "What am I like?" Everybody has strengths and everybody has weaknesses. The weaknesses are the other side of the strengths. So let's say if you're a right brain/creative person, you may not be reliable. Because just the way you think necessitates you to think a certain way, that means you can't think in another way. That means you're going to keep bumping into that thing that's standing in your way. But unless you can embrace, "I'm not reliable," right, and deal with it, you won't get around it. It's still going to continue to be a barrier. Right. So the diagnosis to the root cause is important. So then if you diagnose, then you have to design what you are going to do about it that works. So let's say you are very creative but not reliable. Okay, you have to find the means of first of all embracing that, and then saying, "If I'm not reliable, what do I? Do I work with a reliable person? Do I learn reliability? Do I have some compensating mechanism?" Because I can't let that lack of reliability stand in the way of my goal. As long as I keep doing that I'm going to keep running into problems.
So you have to design what you do about the problems. And then when you're designing what to do about the problems, you have to follow it through. You have to follow through, or do the thing you design. Doing the thing you design requires self-discipline and so on. People have to do those things in order to be successful. Right. They have to know what their goals are. They have to diagnose their problems down to the root cause, the real root cause. They have to design ways to get around them, and then they have to have the self-discipline to follow that. It's a continuous iterative process. So that's what we keep doing. I would say that all of the shapers are doing that. So they don't mind the problems. That's their adventure. A wonderful book is Einstein's Mistakes. You hear his struggles. He wouldn't have been cutting-edge, he wouldn't have been inventive if he didn't go through that. So when you're looking at the personality characteristics, the personality characteristics lend themselves to doing that five-step process well.
In his book The Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell says it takes something like 10,000 hours of working at something to become remarkable, to become extraordinary. I think you're also describing a person who is very driven, who has great tenacity and doesn't let things get in the way of the goal.
Ray Dalio: Yes, of course. It's an element, but...It's the mixture of the elements that matter. You could have a tremendous tenacity, but you're studying, you're learning, you're trying to memorize and remember everything that you're being taught and you're really trying hard. You could have great tenacity. You need the making sense of something, you need to embrace reality. You need these other dimensions. Right. So I think the things that we started to talk about just before, the things that these people have a need for is: First, they need to -- most fundamentally - make sense of things, which is a very different kind of learning process. It's a very internalized learning process. It's not a memory-based process. So none of these people -- unlike the population as a whole -- none of these people have a desire to follow instructions.