Go Positive, Go First

I’ve actually only read the transcript, but this talk by Peter Kaufman is pretty great.

He’s talking about simple concepts, he has some professional speaker tics, and he sometimes compares things that aren’t directly comparable, but he does it in a way that left me with a deeper impression of these two simple concepts than I had before the I read the transcript: mirrored reciprocation and compound interest.

Mirrored reciprocation is the idea that you’re likely to get back what you put out. He uses Newton’s third law of motion to illustrate this, and while “for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction” doesn’t apply when I smile at you and you smile back, it’s helpful to illustrate his point, which is that the vast majority of the time people’s response to you in some way matches the way you interact with them. So “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is not just a moral dictate, it’s also an effective way of living. By starting positive and going first, we can improve our own lives and the lives of others.

Compound interest usually refers to financial returns compounding over time, but Kaufman’s defines compound interest as “dogged incremental constant progress over a very long time frame”. Evolution, human society, and individual progress can be viewed through this lens.

Reciprocity and compound interest can seem like stale concepts, so it’s nice to be reminded in a vivid way that they are helpful frameworks through which to view daily actions.

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