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We love to debate minutiae

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If you’re below the age of 125, you have heard people saying one of more of these phrases about losing weight:

  • Don’t eat before you go to bed because fat doesn’t burn as efficiently
  • If you cut your carb intake and raise your protein level, you can lose lots of weight quickly
  • If you eat fruit in the morning, it’s easy on your digestive system and your metabolism will speed up

I always laugh at these things because they’re so absurd. Maybe they’re correct, or maybe not, but that’s not really the point.

The point is that we love to debate minutiae.

We love to debate details at the completely wrong level of analysis.

When it comes to weight loss, 99.99% of people only need to know 2 things: Eat healthier and exercise more. Only Olympic athletes need to know more.

But instead of accepting these simple items and acting on them, we debate calories and trans fats and Atkins and South Beach.

Why? Because we love to debate minutiae.

When we do, we somehow feel satisfied with ourselves. We might have just spun our wheels, and failed at changing anyone’s mind (and our ideas certainly weren’t changed because who knows more about trans fat than us?). But we feel like we really expressed ourselves, and it’s a good feeling.

The problem is that the feeling is totally illusory when it comes to getting anything done. Ironically, debating minutiae is the easiest way to get nothing done: Imagine the last time you and your friend talked about this stuff. Did you go for a run afterwards? Of course not.

Because we love to debate minutiae, which absolves us from actually having to do anything.

I prefer to do it another way. Let the fools debate the details. I’d rather get something done by keeping it simple and actually doing it.

Who wins at the end of the day? The self-satisfied people who heatedly debate some obscure details? Or the people who sidestep the entire debate, recognize the underlying essence of the issue, and quietly get it done?

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14 Comments on "We love to debate minutiae"

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David
David
10 years 11 months ago

Define “eat healthier”. Once you’ve defined this describe to me how you know this. This should be fun to watch. I understand your broader point and agree. But you’re taking it to the other extreme. Ignoring all specificity to the point ambiguousness.

Ginsberg
10 years 11 months ago

Awesome post… I like the discussion on self-satisfying and pointless debates – kind of a hard idea to put into words… and also the weight-loss topic. I think all anybody needs to know about weight loss is the 1st law of thermodynamics… in a nutshell: if you burn more energy than you take in, you will lose weight… it doesn’t matter what kind of calories you take in, or your “genetic predisposition” to anything, it is an indisputable law of physical reality.

MT Fierce
MT Fierce
10 years 11 months ago

You COULD simplify it as, “The way to save money is to not spend it,” but I thought I learned something a little different from you and this site: I’m not looking for that. I want to spend it. I want to spend it in smart ways that give me a return.

Naval Ravikant
Naval Ravikant
10 years 11 months ago
Written like someone who’s been thin his whole life… 🙂 I have two quibbles with this: 1) The low carb stuff really does work, and to much greater than the 0.01% degree that you imply. It is one of the few relatviely new pieces of common wisdom out there that has a big impact, so that meme does need to spread. 2) In an increasingly specialized society, most of the rewards accrue at the margin. There’s a big difference in income between the the best golfer and the second-best golfer; the best search engine, and the second-best search engine, and… Read more »
Timothy T
Timothy T
10 years 11 months ago

Losing weight is not the point of the article. Or you are doing the exact thing that the article is talking about – debating minutiae. A constructive debate would be that you think we DON”T love to debate minutiae or that debating minutiae is actually very important than actually doing.

Jerry Kindall
10 years 11 months ago

The devil’s in the details. The big picture doesn’t even exist without all the minutiae.

Sandy Kory
Sandy Kory
10 years 11 months ago

Nice post, Ramit.

I think this trait of debaging minutiae comes out in the culture of long meetings that is common in many (especially big ) companies. Meetings should rarely take more than 1 hour.

Matthew Huebert
10 years 10 months ago
I really like this post. The way I interpret this post (and I could very well be wrong), Ramit is referring to minutiae as _trivial_ detail, rather than merely _small_ details. It is the fact that a detail is relatively incidental to the outcome that categorizes it as minutiae for the purposes of this post. So we might say that minutiae are identified not by scope (eg. specificity/ambiguity, or small/large), but by degree of relation to the main point or goal that is being reached for. Am I on the right track? Looking at personal experiences, I think that sometimes… Read more »
chetan shah
chetan shah
9 years 6 months ago

Most love debate minutiae for the reason that they dont have anything great to do any way. No big goals set in their life. Donot believe they can make any impact any other way.

tcc
tcc
9 years 4 months ago

I agree with Ramit. It may very well be true that low-carb diets work wonders in a flash, or that some kinds of sugar are better than others. But most self-styled health experts spend twice as much time gossiping about calories as they spend actually doing anything about their health (or weight.)

If you have a burning desire to follow every health rule in the book, there will be plenty of time to ponder the details of what to eat when — after you’ve mastered basics like exercising regularly and moderating food intake.

P
P
8 years 11 months ago

There’s a good metaphor here for investing, too, namely that people love to debate what individual stocks will do over the next few weeks or months, when there’s overwhelming evidence that the majority of variation in portfolio returns is due to asset allocation, not stockpicking (i.e. you’re better off ignoring individual stocks completely and keeping your portfolio balanced than spending dozens of hours burrowing through financial statements looking for the next hot stock).

Oyuna
Oyuna
8 years 7 months ago

Hahaha… really sharp point .GET IT DONE instead of wasting time over debate is true

keir
keir
8 years 2 months ago

as a fat man i think it is better if we all take responcablity for our wieght issues. if we all just did some exersize before we go to bed then our carbonhydrate intake would lower effectantly

Steve O
Steve O
7 years 11 months ago

I hate hate hate all the talk about gas prices. I’ve met several people who make six or seven figures and complain about spending an extra few hundred dollars a year on a commodity that’s been underpriced for years.

And all that other stuff about weight loss, too.

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