I'm experimenting with the next few newsletters.
For four weeks, I will be traveling in The Netherlands, Singapore, and Indonesia. For fun, I'm going to tie in personal stories from my traveling with the ideas I write about. Now you get to hear my personal life while I ramble about silly ideas and peanut butter!
I would love to hear your feedback on this new writing format in your responses to this email below.
This week we will be adventuring into the insights The Inner Game of Tennis has on PKM.
The Inner Game of Tennis is a book written by W. Timmothy Gallwey that explores what differentiates peak-performance tennis players from beginner and amateur tennis players. While the book largely focuses on tennis, its insights weigh in on all activities in life. There are four main insights we can take from the book toward PKM:
- There Are Two Selves In PKM
- Healthy PKM Practice is A Balance Between self 1 And self 2
- Trying Too Hard In PKM Can Actually Make You Perform Worse
- The Importance Of Presence In PKM And Life
There Are Two Selves In PKM
According to W. Timothy Gallwey in The Inner Game of Tennis by W. Timothy Gallwey, each player has two "selves": self 1 (the "teller") and self 2 (the "doer").
Self 1 is our conscious judgmental self whereas self 2 is our subconscious self.
The key to getting better at tennis or anything in life is improving the relationship between the judgmental conscious self, self 1, and the subconscious self, self 2; this is called the inner game. By default, most people let their judgmental conscious self 1 override their self 2. The problem stems from the fact that we tend to focus on the outer game inside of most of life's activities, the external things that are easily measurable. In tennis, most people differentiate pros from amateurs by analyzing their strokes, fitness, and balance.
We largely ignore the inner game.
We do the same inside PKM.
When I first got into PKM, most of the information was on the methods and tools we could use to upgrade our practice. I thought if I just had the right tool, then my PKM practice would sprout like a blossoming flower. I switched from Google Drive to Evernote, Notion, Roam Research, and finally, Obsidian.
The lesson I learned: the mindsets you bring to your PKM system are vastly more important than the methods and tools you use.
In other words, the inner game is just as important, if not more, than the outer game inside PKM.
What's the problem with ignoring the inner game? The problem is that our self 2 holds a vast reservoir of knowledge that our working memory could never hope to store. Our working memory is a mere drop in the ocean compared to our subconscious memory. But when we let our self 1 overtake our self 2, we inhibit our ability to tap into the reservoir of our subconscious because of fear and doubt. We don't see things as they are because our consciousness is so filled with bullcrap!
I see it all the time when beginners come to PKM. What folders, tags, linking, and query system should I use? How am I going to organize all this information? What is the meaning of life?
Okay, maybe not that last one, but the point is they let their judgmental selves stop them from really enjoying the practice of PKM.
Cleary, we need to focus on the inner game.
Healthy PKM Practice is A Balance Between self 1 And self 2
Healthy PKM practice comes with balancing self 1 and self 2.
Trusting self 2 is integral so we can give our subconscious processes the power to play. But without any conscious effort to learn and refine techniques, there is a risk of developing bad habits or lacking proper form in the long run. To address this, it's beneficial to combine the approach of trusting oneself and relying on instinct (self 2) with deliberate practice and mindful awareness. By setting higher-order desires or intentions for your PKM practice and surrendering attachments to specific outcomes, you can create a space for focused observation and feedback during play.
This allows you to assess whether you are using your PKM system the way you want to or not and make necessary adjustments while still maintaining a state of Flow.
In the beginning of PKM, you are still navigating what mindsets, methods and tools you should use.
However, as you gain experience and confidence, your PKM system becomes a part of you. At its best, you can navigate it in a perfect balance of subconscious and conscious processing entering a beautiful state of Flow.
While traveling, I noticed the power of balancing self 1 with self 2.
I was writing at my old grandma's house in the morning when she came in to make coffee. For the last three years, I have consistently written in the morning for an hour and a half almost daily. I felt myself 1 fighting over whether to keep writing or to be with my grandmother. Then I let my subconscious decide by asking myself a profound question. Looking back, what would I be glad I did at 100 years old?
I instantly knew the correct answer.
I spent the next three hours talking with my grandmother about her 20s, 30s, and 40s, raising five kids with a husband working full time. It was the best conversation I have ever had with her.
Trying Too Hard In PKM Can Actually Make You Perform Worse
Trying too hard increases your self-consciousness, making you evaluate and judge your every move, which can cause overthinking.
This inhibits your subconscious processesing, which can process and act upon vastly more information than your conscious processes. In The Inner Game of Tennis, Gallwey explains it's better to play from a state of relaxed concentration where you trust in your natural abilities and allow your actions to unfold effortlessly.
This insight applies to PKM.
Instead of forcing ourselves to consume vast amounts of knowledge or meticulously organize every piece of information, we can adopt a more organic and flexible approach. We can organize opportunistically when we hit what Nick Milo calls Mental squeeze points, the point at which the disorganization of information gets so great that we have to organize.
We create a PKM system that makes us feel joy instead of anxiety.
I applied this insight while seeing my Uncle in the Netherlands.
I was playing soccer with my Uncle and two cousins. I hadn't played soccer in a few years and felt the urge to consciously decide every move because there was no way I felt there was no way I could remember how to play from that long ago. But I remembered the insights from the book and trusted in myself 2. I gave way to my subconscious processing and became the ball itself. I harbored no judgment, no fear; I let myself simply be.
We won the game 7 to 6.
The Importance Of Presence In PKM And Life
The Inner Game of Tennis has profound insights on how we should come to PKM and life.
We must spend more time working on the inner game. We need to be more present, aware of our sensations, feelings, and thoughts while balancing between self 1 and self 2. Through this lens, this book strongly reminds me of The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle as well as the Ancient Chinese Philosophy of Taoism. I wrote extensively about these ideas inside of my article, Why You Need To Study BOTH Western And Eastern Philosophy.
One of the areas I'm trying to practice these ideas in right now is traveling.
I'm an incredibly driven person. Whenever I'm back home, I like to use my time in the most efficient yet effective way possible for my health, work, and relationships. Traveling, however, destroys my regular routines and habits. So right now, I'm trying to navigate the relationship I want with my health, work, and relationships.
I'll keep talking about how it goes as I travel throughout Singapore and Indonesia.
Here's what I would like to share this week.
📸News From The Channel!
🎙️Latest On De Podcast - E23 Dr. Lynne Kelly: How To Supercharge Your Memory Like Indigenous Cultures
💡My Best Insights:
📖Book - The Great Mental Models Volume 3: This is the third part of the great mental models series and, in my opinion, the best. In this part, we explore mental models from systems and mathematics. Systems make up all of life. Your productivity system, PKM system, health system, relationship system, etc. which is why I think systems thinking is instrumental to have in your life.
📰Blog Post - John Vervaeke’s Brilliant 4p3r Metatheory of Cognition: I'm still making my way through John Vervaeke's brilliant series, Awakening From The Meaning Crisis. This article summarizes the theory of cognition he explores in his series. Studying psychology at Cornell, I find this to be one of the most insightful theories of cognition I have come across. Reading the article will help you understand your own brain and its workings at a deeper level.
🎙️Podcast - EP143 John Vervaeke Part 1 — Awakening From the Meaning Crisis: For anyone looking to dive into The Awakening From The Meaning Crisis Lectures by John Vervaeke, I highly recommend listening to this five-part podcast series after every ten episodes. It summarizes what gets talked about every ten episodes and makes it way easier to understand what is happening in this titanic series.