Originally posted by Fred Wilson
Subconscious Information Processing
It’s fathers day and I thought I’d tell a story about my dad and something he taught me a long time ago. I was in middle school and I had a school project due the next day and it came up at dinner that I had not done the project. My dad made me stay up very late that night until I had completed it. And he stayed up with me. He made sure I understood two things that evening. The first one is obvious. When assigned something, you do it and you do it on time.
But the second thing he explained to me was more subtle and way more powerful. He explained that I should start working on a project as soon as it was assigned. An hour or so would do fine, he told me. He told me to come back to the project every day for at least a little bit and make progress on it slowly over time. I asked him why that was better than cramming at the very end (as I was doing during the conversation).
He explained that once your brain starts working on a problem, it doesn’t stop. If you get your mind wrapped around a problem with a fair bit of time left to solve it, the brain will solve the problem subconsciously over time and one day you’ll sit down to do some more work on it and the answer will be right in front of you.
I’ve taken that approach with every big problem I’ve faced ever since. I used this technique to get through high school, college, and business school. I’ve used this technique to develop a career in investing and technology. I’ve even used this technique to deal with our own parenting challenges.
I’m a big fan of subconscious information processing. It is why I have my some of my best ideas in the shower in the morning. It is why I write every morning right after I get up. I believe that while I’m sleeping, my mind is churning through the things that I’m trying to figure out and often the answers are back (like a batch job) when I wake up.
Thanks dad for that tip. It’s been a big part of my playbook ever since. Happy fathers day everyone.