Practical PKM

🧮 Don't Solve Your Problems, Collect Them

Published 12 days ago • 3 min read

In this edition of Practical PKM:

  • 💡 The Big Idea: My 12 Favorite Problems
  • 😎 Something Cool: My notes from Craft + Commerce
  • 📚 My book notes from Super Thinking

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💡 The Big Idea: If You Want to Better Answers, Ask Better Questions

Richard Feynman was one seriously smart dude.

He received a join Nobel Prize for “fundamental work in quantum electrodynamics with deep-ploughing consequences for the physics of elementary particles,” figured out the source of NASA’s Challenger disaster, and even translated Mayan hieroglyphics.

One of the reasons he accomplished so much was that he loved interesting problems. While most of us try to avoid problems or solve them as quickly as possible, he would collect them and let them incubate in the background.

Unlike many of us, he wasn’t uncomfortable with not knowing the answer. He knew that if he stuck with a problem long enough, he would eventually be inspired and find a way to solve it.

Richard Feynman's 12 Favorite Problems

One of the things Richard Feynman advocated for was keeping a list of your 12 favorite problems:

“You have to keep a dozen of your favorite problems constantly present in your mind, although by and large they will lay in a dormant state. Every time you hear or read a new trick or a new result, test it against each of your twelve problems to see whether it helps. Every once in a while there will be a hit, and people will say, “How did he do it? He must be a genius!”

When you create a list of problems like this, your brain is constantly working on them in the background. And given enough time, it will find the right answers.

If we ask the right questions, the answers eventually become clear.

My 12 Favorite Problems

I have my own list of my 12 favorite problems (in Obsidian, of course). Here they are:

  • How can I make things easier/simpler?
  • How can I live with more meaning?
  • How can I live out my LifeTheme (personal mission statement)?
  • How can I create more and consume less?
  • Who are my true fans and what do they want?
  • How can I better lead & serve my family/wife/kids?
  • How can I have more fun?
  • How can I set my kids up for success?
  • What about this would make a good story?
  • What can I learn here?
  • How can I leave my dent in the universe?
  • How can I focus on what really matters?

(David & I did a Focused episode on this a while back if you want to hear more about how I picked these.)

Notice that some of these questions don’t have answers. That’s OK! Simply by thinking about these, I’m priming the pump for finding the answers. Inspiration usually strikes when you least expect it, but it happens more regularly when you’ve done the prep so your subconscious can continue to noodle on things in the background.

😎 Something Cool: Craft + Commerce

Last week I was at Craft + Commerce, the incredible creator conference hosted by ConvertKit (my email service provider). I heard some amazing talks by people like Ali Abdaal, Codie Sanchez, Jay Clouse, Bonnie Christine, and many more. I didn’t get a chance to get to all of the sessions, but I did get to a bunch of them and I took sketchnotes while I was there (you can download my full notes from the conference here).

What really impresses me though about the conference every year is the people. There are some pretty awesome creators there, but because the conference is fairly small, it’s easy to build relationships with fellow creators. I’ve met several people there that I now consider to be good friends.

I don’t think that tickets for next year are officially on sale yet, but if you have even a small desire to make something online, you should get to Craft + Commerce. You won’t regret it.

📚 Book Notes: Super Thinking by Gabriel Weinberg & Lauren McCann

Sometimes all you need to do to get inspired is to look at things through a different lens. Mental models are a great way to do this by letting you see things from a different perspective. And if you want a bunch of mental models to upgrade your mental toolkit, you should pick up Super Thinking by Gabriel Weinberg & Lauren McCann.

This book is full of mental models that you can use to get a fresh look at your favorite problems. We covered this a few weeks ago for Bookworm (you can listen here), and if you want to download my notes from this incredible book, click here.

— Mike

Practical PKM

by Mike Schmitz

A weekly newsletter where I help people apply values-based productivity principles and systems for personal growth, primarily using Obsidian. Subscribe if you want to make more of your notes and ideas.

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