Rate of Problem Creation > Rate of Problem Solving

Yesterday I was listening to Shane Parrish’s interview with Patrick Collison on the Knowledge Project podcast and at one point Patrick talks about this idea that people feel overwhelmed when the rate at which problems come up in their lives constantly exceeds the rate at which the person can solve the problem those problem.

Rate of Problem Creation > Rate of Problem Solving -> Feeling of Being Overwhelmed

I think this is such a succinct yet powerful heuristic for understanding why we feel overwhelmed and what can we do about it. This approach to achieving balance in one’s life initially reminded me a lot of the concept of homeostasis, which is this idea that biological organisms tend to seek a point of equilibrium (e.g. temperature regulation – you shiver if you’re cold and you sweat when you’re hot).

Now this might be a little counterintuitive but I don’t think that we should seek stability all the time. I feel that it’s ok to do some arbitrage and be willing to take on more “problems” or harder problems that take longer to solve, if that means that you can make more progress towards your goals.

I guess that my point is that Patrick’s approach shouldn’t be used to seek stability. Instead, it should be used to help us understand the factors that shape our behavior and use that to our advantage.