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Dec 29, 2018 15:56:32

the Compass - a direction is not the destination

by @brianball PATRON | 1103 words | 401💌

Brian Ball

Total posts: 401💌
Total words: 114364 (457 pages 📄)

Were you lucky enough to attend summer camp as a kid? Maybe you learned how a compass works. Nowadays, there's a compass on my phone. I pull it out and analyze the display. My idea of north is not the same as that shown on the compass.


Launch a compass app from your phone.

Consider the direction you're facing and the direction of true north.

If asked to point to North from where you are, would you have gotten it exactly right? How far off might you have been? I was off by 67 degrees.

The distance between the direction we think we're heading and the correct direction may be slight, but it could distract us from reaching our destination.

Adjustment with Feedback

This program isn't about getting to your destination with a single request - like you might do when getting a ride from Uber or other ride-share service.

We'll practice the art of adjustment with feedback.

Drive toward a destination without knowing which roads might get you there and you may discover the path. You might also get lost or go farther than necessary because of road closure or one-way streets you can't easily turn from. In San Francisco and other urban areas, it's easy to get caught on a road from which you can't easily turn around.

GPS on smart phones has mostly eliminated this hassle. The concept still applies. As you reach the end of one road, you need to know and decide which direction to turn. Is it left or right? Do you continue forward even if the name of the road changes?

Consider three types of feedback:

1. Feedback from self

2. Feedback from others

3. Feedback from your environment

A skill you're developing right now is that of paying attention to the signals you send yourself (signal).

What works for you?

What are you willing to try?

Can you force yourself to try things you haven't tried before?

Do you know how to approach unfamiliar situations?

Discomfort -> Change

Humans seek comfort. Maybe all animals do. Discomfort come from signals from our body and cues in our environment. All discomfort happens in our brains.

Our nervous system, an electrical system, activates and we perceive it in our brain. After we perceive it, we may have judgmental thoughts. Positive or Negative. If it's a negative sensation, we'll move to get away from it. If it's positive, we might stay where we are to enjoy the good feelings.

Example of Signal -> Analysis -> Judgment -> Adjustment (SAJA - Loop):

You get in bed and realize the blanket is sideways and your feet aren't covered properly. Aaah! Cold feet. You don't have your socks on. Now your feet are sending a signal.

You don't remain still. You adjust and move toward a better/warmer solution.

If you can't fix the blanket situation without completely getting out of bed, you might just tuck your knees up into your chest to bring your feet under cover. This might work. This adjustment, if sufficiently comfortable, is a good solution. Otherwise, you'll eventually get frustrated enough to quickly jump out of bed, adjust the blanket situation and get into a deeper relaxation now that you're settled.

As you gain mastery of the SAJA loop, your experience will help you solve these kinds of problems much more quickly.

Signal -> Analysis -> Judgment -> Adjustment

The feedback in any system helps us make adjustments. Our stock of resources and experience determine how efficiently we can adjust satisfactorily.

The skills we develop can increase our speed and efficacy. We want to be more effective, so let's practice.


Take a deep breath.

Do deep breaths come naturally or are you mostly shallow breathing. How does one feel different than another.

Close your eyes and take three deep breaths.

What did you put your attention on?

Which parts of your body sent signals up to your brain?

Did you adjust your posture?


You might be going through this course by yourself. But, you can still notice signals other people send.


Go to a coffee shop. As you order a coffee, both you and the cashier will send signals back and forth. Notice these signals.

Act confused and not confident. How do they treat you?

Try a simple order with a smile and a please.

Which signals are exchanged?

Which feels more efficient?

You are teaching yourself to notice signals and adjust quickly? Our brains work at the speed of electricity, that's why most adjustments to signal happen quickly.


The cues we pick up from the environment come through one or more of our senses.

Can you smell anything right now?

Are you eating or drinking anything while you read this? What does it taste like? I'm drinking some warmed up coffee from the previous night, and I notice I can't really taste it. My sense of smell seems limited right now.

A man with some cologne just entered the coffee shop. I can smell that. It's not unpleasant, but I wouldn't want to be driving across town in a car with him.

Cologne-guy looks around.

Humans normally check the people near them. We're curious. But, we do that to gauge the risk / reward variables. Is there a threat? Is there an opportunity to make a friend or a mating partner? ( the way our ancient brains work )

What do you sense on your skin right now? Any itches you want to scratch or body adjustments you want to make? I had been sitting for thirty minutes or so and just stood up to stretch my legs and scratch my back.

What do you see? How's the light? Who is near you?

What do you hear? Any music? Any noises that are grabbing your attention?

( pro-tip: get noise cancelling headphones to increase your ability to focus. sharp noises are distracting )

( pro-tip: use your peripheral vision to detect human threats. If other people around you aren't responding to the new person in the room, you probably don't need to give much attention either. )

As you perceive all these signals, how do you judge them? Good? Bad?

As you make adjustments, scratch itches, look up and away to give your eyes a break, you're completing the SAJA loop many times. Signal -> Analysis -> Judgment -> Adjustment

Some loops are simple. Others are more complex. We'll learn a lot more about our role in these loops and how to adjust things we have control over. If we're going to train our attention, we might as well determine the payoffs of different kinds of signals and choose those with a higher reward.

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