The I Ching Series (2/​10): How should I prioritize my career-building projects?


Note: See com­ments for my ac­tual writ­ings in re­sponse to I Ching Hex­a­gram in­ter­pre­ta­tions. This main post is for meta-re­flec­tion on the ex­per­i­ment.

The Rules:

  • No div­ina­tion-re­lated ques­tions.

  • I will do ten I Ching ses­sions, about ev­ery six weeks. Eight out of ten ses­sions must pro­duce at least one new piece of ev­i­dence, or else I’ll aban­don the prac­tice. Over­all, the ev­i­dence should fall within at least two of the fol­low­ing cat­e­gories. Fi­nal eval­u­a­tion: this ses­sion counts as a suc­cess.

  • Defi­ni­tion of valid evidence

    • Se­ri­ous work, and “mid-term exam” suc­cess, on novel ideas gen­er­ated by the I Ching, or on pro­jects that I’ve ne­glected at least 6 weeks.

    • In­sights that I can ar­tic­u­late, that I still fully agree with af­ter six weeks, that seem to im­prove my daily de­ci­sions and men­tal health, and that seem sen­si­ble to my friends. I will keep the fact that I used the I Ching to gen­er­ate these in­sights a se­cret un­til the end of the pro­ject.

  • I will treat the most challeng­ing parts of my read­ing as if they were true and im­por­tant. After all, the strangest parts of the read­ing might be most valuable, if the point of the I Ching is to bust you out of ruts.

  • Week 6 up­date (fi­nal):

    • I feel that my EA com­mu­nity pro­jects and net­work­ing were suc­cesses.

    • Just yes­ter­day, I dis­cov­ered the con­cept of “Deep Work” and im­ple­mented a rules-based plan that I think will help me both work, play, and re­ju­ve­nate more effec­tively.

    • My habit of more care­ful aca­demic work paid off, but I still was not 100% con­sis­tent with fol­low­ing the de­tailed as­sign­ment specs from my last class.

  • Week 4 up­date:

    • My EA com­mu­nity pro­jects work has con­tinued to be fruit­ful. We’ve con­ducted many in­ter­views with EA ca­reer chang­ers, set up an EA video chat ser­vice that’s been used by about 40 peo­ple, and have more in the works.

    • I have done a great deal of net­work­ing via email and in-per­son meet­ings in the last two weeks, which led me to de­cide to change col­leges and helped me hone in on what I want to study. I’ve pre­served what I learned from each of these meet­ings and cor­re­spon­dences in a jour­nal, which I think may prove use­ful to oth­ers as well.

    • “Joy time” has re­mained mostly un­re­ward­ing, and my QoL has de­clined over the last two weeks. I in­tend to fo­cus on plan­ning novel, so­cial, un­ruly and self-ex­pres­sive ac­tivi­ties, and us­ing med­i­ta­tion or read­ing rather than pot and TV to re­lax.

    • My con­sis­tent dou­ble-check­ing habit has con­tinued and been im­por­tant in helping me suc­ceed in class.

  • Week 2 up­date:

    • Us­ing the I Ching caused me to re­flect on my feel­ings and needs, which led to a post in the EA fo­rums, which led to be­ing con­tacted by a col­lab­o­ra­tor, which has led to a set of ab­sorb­ing com­mu­nity-build­ing pro­jects, one of which will launch to­mor­row.

    • It spurred me to set up a meet­ing with a pro­fes­sor at an­other col­lege.

    • It has also led the idea of cul­ti­vat­ing a “joy time” habit that ini­tially im­proved my QoL, but be­came bor­ing within a few days.

Pre­limi­nary Reflec­tion:

I found my­self se­lect­ing for cau­tious ques­tions: noth­ing too in­ti­mate, po­ten­tially dis­rup­tive, or bor­ing. I con­tinued to edit my ques­tion un­til it had the right bal­ance of be­ing open-ended and spe­cific, challeng­ing but not pre­cip­i­tous. This was mo­ti­vated in part by know­ing that I was go­ing to post about it pub­li­cly, and that I wanted to act on the re­sults, not shy away from them. I don’t usu­ally take time to con­sider what sort of ques­tion to ask. Cal­ibrat­ing ques­tions more care­fully, and pre­reg­is­ter­ing my anal­y­sis seem like pow­er­ful ways to ad­vance per­sonal growth.

Ques­tion:

How should I pri­ori­tize my ca­reer-build­ing pro­jects?

Post-Run Reflec­tion:

This was more pro­duc­tive than I ex­pected, the most use­ful per­sonal jour­nal­ing I’ve done. Was the I Ching nec­es­sary, or would any self-help or wis­dom liter­a­ture work just as well? Yet I’m wor­ried that these first steps and in­sights will prove illu­sory. I fear that per­sonal jour­nal­ing can be an ad­dic­tive sub­sti­tute for work­ing di­rectly on hard pro­jects—a form of “pre­tend­ing to ac­tu­ally try.” Ad­ding this level of struc­ture may only provide a more con­vinc­ing illu­sion of use­ful­ness.

Ap­prox­i­mate time to com­plete this doc­u­ment:

3 hours ini­tially, plus 30 min­utes or so of up­dat­ing ev­ery two weeks, av­er­ag­ing 15 min­utes a day. That seems like a rea­son­able amount of time to spent on per­sonal jour­nal­ing.

Nav­i­ga­tion:

Next: Run 310 Prev: Run 110