Climbing The Wrong Hill

Dec 21, 2021 6:31 pm

Hey everyone,

Thanks for joining me. Running a newsletter that runs on a regular cadence turns out to be really difficult over the long term, which is why after almost 4 years of struggling to put out an edition on a regular basis (and failing and then feeling guilty about it), I've decided to write only when I have something important to share (whenever that happens). This ensures that you're not just getting an email because I have to hit a quota I've set for myself, and more importantly, ensures that I can continue doing this over the long haul.

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Interesting Finds

The Point Is To Stop: "Coach People, on the other hand, intuitively understand that these things are skill-based and they must be worked on over and over again for many years until you can do them unconsciously. […] Coach People are in it for the long haul. They understand that you don’t just “solve” personal problems overnight. You have to commit to them. You have to commit to yourself. But what the Coach People don’t get is that the whole point is to eventually stop. It’s to leave. Because unlike chess or basketball, there’s no world championship for anger management."

The best way to judge the usefulness of self-help advice is by how many people eventually leave it behind. If something has worked for you, you'll realise that by finding that you no longer need to spend so much time on it.

Climbing the wrong hill: "But the lure of the current hill is strong. There is a natural human tendency to make the next step an upward one. He ends up falling for a common trap highlighted by behavioral economists: people tend to systematically overvalue near term over long term rewards. This effect seems to be even stronger in more ambitious people. Their ambition seems to make it hard for them to forgo the nearby upward step.

People early in their career should learn from computer science: meander some in your walk (especially early on), randomly drop yourself into new parts of the terrain, and when you find the highest hill, don’t waste any more time on the current hill no matter how much better the next step up might appear."

Hugging the X-Axis: "People think they’ll be happy if they don’t have any obligations. In actuality, total optionality is a recipe for emptiness — and hugging the X-axis — because opportunity and optionality are often inversely correlated. [...] The challenge is that people who treat their lives like a game of hot potato, always moving from thing to thing, can’t take advantage of exponential curves — and climb the Y-axis."

How To Waste Time And Money: "The most dangerous way to lose time is not to spend it having fun, but to spend it doing fake work. When you spend time having fun, you know you're being self-indulgent. Alarms start to go off fairly quickly. But the same alarms don't go off on the days when I get nothing done, because I'm doing stuff that seems, superficially, like real work. Dealing with email, for example. You do it sitting at a desk. It's not fun. So it must be work."

This is old but gold from Paul Graham. I've been spending a lot of time thinking about doing meaningful work, and although I'm still far from finding an answer, this seems like something that I should clearly *not* be doing.

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Until next time,