ᴅᴀᴠɪᴅ ᴘᴇʀᴇʟʟ ✌ @david_perell "The Writing Guy" | Host of the North Star Podcast: perell.com/podcast | Writing at perell.com/ | Teaching at writeofpassage.school/ Feb. 14, 2020 2 min read

I've been practicing my observation skills for years.

Here's what I've learned about becoming a better observer:

1. Write every day. The writing habit makes the world come to life. Every moment, from the mundane to the miraculous, becomes a potential future sentence.

2. The best secrets are hidden in plain sight.

Most people think of secrets as Easter eggs. They assume that if a secret is important, it’s necessarily going to be hard to find.

But sometimes, the best ideas come from things that everybody sees, but nobody takes seriously.

3. Tesla was built upon an observational secret.

Elon Musk observed that clean-tech was more of a social phenomenon than an environmental one, so he built a high-end car to take advantage of all the wealthy people who wanted to be pro-environment and also drive a sexy car.

4. Experts see what beginners miss.

Tesla was able to take advantage of the subsidies because the company was founded by a team of people who were familiar enough with the clean-tech industry to identify opportunities other people couldn’t see.

Here's Tesla's master plan.

5. Observe yourself observing.

Listen to your emotions. Recognize automatic sensory reactions, such as the sweat on your palms before a meeting, a clench to your nose in a dirty place, or the rush of your heartbeat in a moment of instant attraction.

These emotions are hints.

6. Mine your emotions for ideas

Most people ignore their emotions. But if you can investigate them for insights, you’ll discover knowledge inside you that you never thought knew existed, if only because you never stopped to listen to yourself.

7. Keep moving

When we are suck in our routine, we stop looking at the world around us. The mind notices anomalies, and when you’re too used to the environment you’re in, you stop looking at your surroundings.

Aim to see the world with the sensitivity of a scared tourist.

8. Look for things that don't make sense

Logic is the key to scientific truths, but paradoxes are the key to psychological ones. When it comes to the human condition, the deepest truths are often counter-intuitive. When you find two opposites that are both true, start exploring.

You can follow @david_perell.


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