The Inversion Principle

My girlfriend Reina struggles to get a good night's sleep. She's a light sleeper, so she wakes up quickly but also has trouble falling asleep. Those two variables alone are a recipe for disaster. However, it doesn't help that I am a fantastic sleeper and move A LOT in my sleep, which compounds her problems. Suffice to say, we've struggled to solve this problem. Recently, I sat down to research and did my best to solve her sleep scarcity problem. I started off not by seeking solutions to her problem but first by defining the parameters to her situation by asking, "What could I (and she) do to make sure she never sleeps well?" A weird way to solve the issue I know, but I'll get there. A few answers came to mind:

Now, to solve her problem we simply avoided the above points. We limited screen time after 9 pm, and for any screens that were on, we filtered out blue light. I went to sleep before her, but she also didn't stay up super late, and I would make sure she woke up early. She stopped drinking caffeine after noon, and lastly, we ran the AC unit right up until bedtime but then cut it. The results have been promising!

Inversion Principle

What we did to solve Reina's sleeping problem was an exercise of inversion. If you remember Algebra from high school, then you are very familiar with this concept. It's the action of flipping a question 180° (opposite) to simplify the solution. It's most helpful in big questions with unclear answers like the following examples:

By inverting the question, it's much easier to spot core areas fundamental to the problem's solution, and then clarify the circumstances to work towards because you know what to avoid. When approaching a new problem, your instinct will direct you towards uncovering the solution from the top down. "What is the best outcome, and what creates that best outcome?" This principle is a fantastic exercise to force you to see the problem from the bottom up. The opposite will always be easy to define and present a new point of view, from which you can figure out "what creates the worst outcome?" and work backward. 

"Humans should be doing the same thing as Algebraists do, constantly invert. Don't think about what you want. Think about what you want to avoid." - Charlie Munger

I heard this principle from Charlie Munger, who initially used it to find the best strategies for US Airforce assaults in World War 2. He then applied it thoroughly afterward, in his investment career alongside Warren Buffet. Charlie Munger is credited as being Buffet's right-hand man in analyzing the investment decisions that propelled Berkshire Hathaway to the wealthiest investing firm of the 20th century. 

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