Overcoming fear of failure, personal projects, managing stress, and Napkin

The High Five - Edition #32

Hello friends,

I’d like to start with a warm welcome to all the new subscribers. Thank you for signing up and I appreciate you taking interest in things I share once every 2 weeks. If you received ‘The High Five’ as a forward on email from a good friend, you can get it directly by hitting this button.

Here are 5 things I wanted to share in this 32nd edition:

  1. A 5 step method to overcome your fear of failure

  2. Paul Graham about having ‘personal projects’

  3. Types of stress and strategies to manage them

  4. Napkin One - a system to collect and connect thoughts

  5. A question about life at crossroads.


Success: How to Overcome Your Fear of Failure with The Bucky Method

Did you ever fear failure? I did. I still do many times. But yeah, I am slowly improving. This article starts with a very interesting story from 1927 when a corporate executive was just about to commit suicide and had a change of mind at the last minute. He later became a scientist and published prolifically. The scientist - Buckminster “Bucky” Fuller - approached his life after that suicidal moment, as an experiment he was conducting on himself. Years later, Daniel Kahneman in his seminal work - Thinking, Fast and Slow - shared a similar idea of applying a 2nd person lens to everything you do. He refers to it as System-2 thinking. This mindset shift, the article shares, is the key to overcoming the fear of failure. It spells out a 5-step guide called ‘The Bucky Method’ to overcoming failure. Here is a visual summary of it:

Ultimately, the cornerstone of this approach is bringing more intentionality into everything you do and having a clinically detached view of your efforts, so that your (self) evaluations are more objective and encouraging.


Creativity: Paul Graham makes a compelling case for ‘Personal Projects’

If you are a reader, of any kind, Paul Graham is one of the writers you must follow. Paul is an entrepreneur and venture capitalist, known for the famous Y-Combinator. Paul writes essays very frequently, in which he demonstrates some amazing sense of clarity in writing and quality of ideas. In this article, Paul makes a strong case for having ‘Personal Projects’ and he does that by comparing with the excitement kids experience while working on such projects.

When I was picking startups for Y Combinator, I didn't care about applicants' grades. But if they'd worked on projects of their own, I wanted to hear all about those.

Paul characterizes ‘personal projects’ as ones that have two key distinct aspects:

  1. You're doing them voluntarily, rather than merely because someone told you to.

  2. You're doing them by yourself.

The other important aspect he advocates is being carelessly confident about these projects without being too judgemental. He again invokes the example of kids doing any creative work - “kids just plunge in and build their treehouse without worrying about whether they're wasting their time, or how it compares to other treehouses. And frankly, we could learn a lot from kids here. The high standards most grownups have for ‘real’ work do not always serve us well.”

For me, ‘The High Five’ started as a personal project last year and one of the good things I managed to accomplish in this personal project is not being obsessed with numbers. Sure, more readers are certainly more encouraging, but I have not actively been obsessing with the number of views, readers, shares etc. I have some more ideas for ‘personal projects’ and I have been sitting on the fence. Paul’s article serves as a good reminder.


Health & Mindset: Creating calm - how to manage stress

If you have been a regular reader of ‘The High Five’, you would have already noticed that I share quite a few articles from ‘Ness Labs’. This short article elaborates on the types of stress that exist and cites some of the effective strategies to manage them.

The 4 types of stress are mapped into a 2x2 matrix so that we understand which among those are actually good and how best we can approach them.

  1. Eustress is “good stress”, the one we experience at the edge of our comfort zone. We find it intellectually stimulating to engage with tasks that are at the edge of our comfort zone because they give us a sense of accomplishment. They can also fall in the category of ‘personal projects’, about which the above article elaborates.

  2. Distress is what we feel when we are anxious and have this sense of losing control of the narrative.

  3. Hypostress is stress manifesting as boredom.

  4. Hyperstress is the stress we experience when we are close to burnout.

Clearly, Eustress is the one we need to seek to maximize while simultaneously avoiding both the extremes - burnout and boredom.

The article further shares some strategies to get there, categorized into ‘emotion based’, ‘action based’, and ‘acceptance based’. They all include a healthy assortment of productivity tips, journaling, exercise, meditation, etc.

Do you have any strategies that help you operate optimally in the Eustress zone? Please share in the comments.


An interesting tool I discovered recently: The High Five on Napkin

A few months ago, I discovered a tool called Napkin, in which you can key in your thoughts and tag them. Over a period, it generates this cloud of interconnected thoughts that you can share online. I have made a collection of quotes that I shared on ‘The High Five’ and Napkin generated this link. I found it interesting to browse through them all. If you’d like to capture your thoughts somewhere, try it out.


A question that I pondered about this last week:

There sure must have been instances in your life when you experienced a feeling that a certain dimension of your life (or life as such) was at a crossroad? How did you deal with it? Let me know in the comments if you don’t mind sharing about it.


If you enjoyed reading this edition of ‘The High Five’, please let me know which piece intrigued you the most and why. And if you know a friend who might like reading this, send it to him/her. Until next time. Cheers.

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