Basic Concepts (4HL)

Enter the System

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1) 4-Hour Life, Consistency Space, Payoff Space

Two people can be using the same word, meaning different things, yet continue the conversation, which is fine for coffee, but not when trying to understand the world, particularly trying to understand the world that affects you and others. But it is easy to trip them, as Socrates did, simply by asking them what they mean by what they said –hence philosophy was born as accuracy in discourse and removal of mixed up notions. This is in contrast to the sophist’s promotion of rhetoric, of argumentation as a manipulative bag of tricks, elegant when well done, vulgar if not. Since Socrates we have had a long tradition of mathematical science and contract law driven by precision in mapping terms. But we also have had many pitfalls by people using labels.

People rarely mean the same thing when they say “work”, nor do they realize that they don’t mean the same thing. For people who are in that category called “employee” work means one thing and for people who own the business “work” means another thing. Although they look a lot alike in the outside, it is actually the invisible parts of “work” that make all the difference in how each category experiences this phenomenon. Let’s start with the employee version of work.

A modern employee, let’s use a white collar office worker as an example, will usually get around 8 hours of sleep, will work around 8 hours a day, spend 4 hours commuting going to the gym, having meals, and then end up with 4 hours to him or herself during the day. So they own 4 hours. We can call this class of people 4HLers. It may seem vulgar to reduce a person’s life to the amount of hours he has free in a day, but then again, how many hours you have to yourself is kind of a big deal. Time is an important concept to a 4HLer. He is obsessed with time. he has to be. His livelyhood depends on it. So he has an alarm clock, because he has to wake up at the same time everyday, he has to take lunch around the same time everyday and get off of work around the same time everyday. He has deadlines that are due and he has to be reliable. It’s his job to be reliable. But wait, isn’t his job to do his job? Not quite.

There is a reason corporations do not contract work out piece by piece. It may be cost effective, but you don’t know if that contractor will be around. He may take off for a better deal and leave you in the dust. So you need to hire someone to sit there and wait for work. You even have to pay them if there isn’t work. It’s kind of expensive. But what do you gain? Reliability. A 4HLer is now in a position where he serves one employer, and has thus removed all optionality from his portfolio. And now the 4HLer has downside. If the employer wants to get rid of them, he can easily do so. But the 4HLer doesn’t have a stake in the company, he has a salary. So if the business gets sold, it doesn’t matter to him, as long as he keeps his position. So, no upside. But downside.

One aspect of having downside, no upside and also no optionality is the ability to be disciplined. The contractor can just leave, he is paid for a piece of work. But the 4HLer can be shifted, shaped and done with whatever the company wants them to be. A 4HLer has to learn how to get along with other 4HLers and represent the company. They are not their to do pieces of work, they are there…for some other purpose. Something, not quite family, not quite strangers, some other status that perhaps has a word we don’t want to use.

So let’s stop right here and recap the 4HLer position

  • Hired for reliability

  • No optionality

  • Downside

  • No upside

  • Consistency

  • Ability to be disciplined

You don’t want to lose your job. It’s scary out there. Especially in America. Poverty here is not like poverty in Europe. Poverty in Europe is drab, depressing, unaesthetic and not fun. But thanks to their robust social welfare state, it is bearable. In America, poverty gets ugly. If fall multiple levels down in class you will encounter a Mad Max beyond Thunderdome dystopia of violence, racial tension, opoid overdoses and drug addled warfare. It is some ugly stuff. Most don’t want to think about it. And I don’t blame them. So when we talk about “downside” we mean a steep drop. America, is like 3 countries. One is a rich happy place, another a lower to lower middle class one barely hanging on and the other is a warzone. As an American, you want to stay in the first level if you can.

And the only thing that keeps you at that level is money. And most people get money from their job, and 90% of America works a job these days. So, your real job is to be consistent at work. To be reliable. You’re in a domain called the Consistency Space. A domain where messing up could cost you your nice life. It’s not about scoring goals as much as not letting goals into the net. This simple idea influences your life, and the lives of others. It is the single most influential idea around you.

This domain has its own characteristics that it does not share with the other domain:

  1. Type of stress (Payoff stress vs consistency stress)

  2. Behavior dictated by downside at the workplace

  3. Behavior manipulated due to hierarchy

  4. Flattening of natural volatility

  5. Constraints on freedom

  6. The “pull” of the weekend (temporary freedom)

  7. Different types of exhaustion

  8. Clustering with other 4HLers

  9. Coping. How does it effect the rest of your life, what you consume, what you do after work or before work? How does it effect your relationships? (two people working as well)

  10. How does consistency space affect males and females differently? What are the side effects on the personal level? What are the side effects when you scale up employment to each gender? Are we seeing different reactions to consistency space?

  11. The requirement of needing a “narrative”

  12. Dosing these variables over time (one cigarette vs 30 years of smoking)

  13. Reducing randomness from the environment

  14. Is the human made to be consistent?

  15. Etc, etc, etc

These are just some concepts that come into play when you dig in to what Consistency Space really means. We will go through some of these in later newsletters, as they deserve their own dedicated explanation. The 4HL structure is what is important to remember. Mondays feel like Mondays, Fridays feel like Fridays, nothing you can do will change that. The structure will dictate how we feel, in a way that grey clouds make us feel slightly more low energy than a sunny day.

Indeed, we see even basic changes in gait, posture, voice register and words chosen when in a 4HL environment that is dictated by hierarchy.


2) Payoff Space

The other domain people refer to when they talk about “work” is the domain called payoff space. Simply, this is a domain where the person owns the business. They have upside, there is something to sell. They are not an employee, a 4HLer. There is a goal in mind, or at least ownership. Examples of this abound, including Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk or even someone who owns a barbershop or writer. Payoff space is defined not by consistency, but by…payoff. Having a product to sell. You can reap many gains from one transaction than you can by consistently doing work on a salary. It also comes with its own set of attributes.

Sometimes you will hear a 4HLer say, “if I won the lottery, I would stop working”. Well, we have lots of millionaires and billionaires who “work” everyday. So what are they talking about? Work for the 4HLer is not work for the payoff space individual. It is not labor. It can even be fun or challenging. Which is why Payoff Space members do not dread Mondays, indeed, they look forward to Mondays. It’s another day that they are in business and potentially one step closer to a big deal.

The Payoff Space member has a “pull”. This gets him up in the morning. This motivates him. This is sometimes why you see owners have an extra pep in their step than employees. Sure, downside exists for them, but upside also means complete freedom, which is an intoxicating goal. This pull is a lot like love. The pull of love motivates someone to do amazing things they would never do.

Indeed, if the 4HLer wants a taste of payoff space, he has a little of it in his life: Dating.

Dating is this completely random, strange, and exciting phenomenon. It is filled with disappointment, mostly. But sometimes you get “lucky” and end up dating someone you really like. And it doesn’t take consistency, it takes a payoff. Someone you see at a bar and strike up a conversation, a quick hello on the street or getting matched by a friend. You can spend years dating hundreds of women, and one day find yourself sleeping next to the same woman for 10 years. And the only thing that changed is meeting that person that one night. That’s payoff space.

Let’s look at some attributes for Payoff Space members:

  1. The “pull” of the payoff

  2. The lack of hierarchy

  3. The lack of day to day downside

  4. Different type of stress (one off vs constant)

  5. Freedom

  6. Transactional not reputational

  7. Potential for Honesty

  8. Gait and posture changes

  9. No narrative necessary

  10. No clustering

  11. Many, Many more.

These concepts also will be fleshed out later in fuller detail.


3) Mixing domains

When you go online, on twitter or facebook or (god forbid) LinkedIn, you are bombarded by slogans, and advice. Advice about what? Advice about work! But what’s work? Well we just defined what work means. However, people don’t realize they are living in one domain and reading about advice about another domain. So what works in payoff space does not work in consistency space. Taking “risks” is Payoff Space domain advice, taking risks in consistency space can get you fired.

So when you read career or work advice, do a little formula. Ask yourself, is the person I’m reading advice from in consistency space or payoff space. Then ask yourself if the advice looks like consistency space advice or payoff space advice. Is it more or less likely to get you fired? What is the downside and what is the upside with taking this particular advice?

Social media is about having an audience. And that audience is 99 percent in consistency space. The big time posters are mostly in Payoff Space. So they won’t tell you this advice won’t work in your domain, they’ll just post it.

So be careful out there.