I Ching Exploratory Run 2/​10


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

  • Schel­ling Fence 1 (from first ex­per­i­ment): I will do no more than 10 I Ching ex­per­i­men­tal runs un­less I can ob­tain at least 1 gen­uinely use­ful ac­tion or insight

  • To be con­sid­ered use­ful, use of I Ching must lead to sig­nifi­cant ac­tions I was not oth­er­wise plan­ning to take, or to in­sights that seem valuable to oth­ers. Th­ese in­sights or ac­tions must not be div­ina­tion-re­lated, and the method by which they were gen­er­ated must be kept hid­den.

  • I’ve heard ad­vice that parts of an­swers that seem wrong or ir­rele­vant should be ig­nored. Yet if the point of the I Ching is to bust you out of men­tal ruts, it seems like the most un­likely parts might be the most valuable. I will there­fore take spe­cial care to treat these most challeng­ing parts as if they were right.

  • Schel­ling Fence 2 (from this ex­per­i­ment): To be con­sid­ered use­ful, I Ching work must spur effort­ful, off-of-butt ac­tivity on pro­jects I’ve known are im­por­tant but that I’ve ne­glected at least 6 weeks; pro­duce gen­uinely novel ideas that in turn lead to effort­ful pro­jects that I carry through to com­ple­tion; or provide clar­ity on dilem­mas in a way that lasts at least 6 weeks, and in­fluences con­se­quen­tial de­ci­sions or sig­nifi­cant daily time use. It should pro­duce at least two of these three cat­e­gories, and at least 4 ex­am­ples. I will list these qual­ify­ing proofs in a falsifi­able man­ner, and will not do more than 10 I Ching ex­per­i­men­tal runs un­til I have ac­quired suffi­cient ev­i­dence based on the first 10.

Pre­limi­nary Reflec­tion:

As I knew that I was go­ing to post about this ex­per­i­ment pub­li­cly, and that to be use­ful I needed to take my re­sults se­ri­ously as a guide to ac­tion, I found my­self se­lect­ing for cau­tious ques­tions: noth­ing too in­ti­mate, po­ten­tially dis­rup­tive, bor­ing to write about, etc. In fact, I don’t usu­ally take time to con­sider what sort of ques­tion to ask. Both the ask of ques­tion-se­lec­tion and the filter im­posed by this pro­ce­dure seem them­selves to be po­ten­tially valuable new forms of per­sonal in­quiry. After con­struct­ing the first form of the ques­tion, I con­tinued to edit it un­til it seemed to strike the right bal­ance be­tween be­ing open-ended and spe­cific.

Ques­tion:

How should I pri­ori­tize my ca­reer-build­ing pro­jects?

Post-Run Reflec­tion:

I feel that this was more con­cretely pro­duc­tive than I ex­pected. Cer­tainly it is the most use­ful pure per­sonal jour­nal­ing I’ve ever done. Was the I Ching nec­es­sary, or would any ar­bi­trary se­lec­tion of self-help/​wis­dom liter­a­ture work just as well? I am still du­bi­ous about how many of these “First Steps” and in­sights will prove con­cretely use­ful in the fu­ture. I also re­main sus­pi­cious that per­sonal jour­nal­ing can be an ad­dic­tive sub­sti­tute for work­ing di­rectly on harder pro­jects—a form of “pre­tend­ing to ac­tu­ally try.” Ad­ding this level of struc­ture may only provide a more con­vinc­ing illu­sion of ac­tu­ally be­ing use­ful.

In or­der to feel more con­fi­dent, I would want to see butt-out-of-chair out­comes. Will I ac­tu­ally con­tact other lo­cal com­mu­nity col­lege pro­grams and con­sider al­ter­na­tives? Will I im­ple­ment the “always check tests and home­work for com­ple­tion and calcu­la­tor er­rors” rule I gen­er­ated? Will I ac­tu­ally set aside more reg­u­lar “joy time” than I’ve done for the last year, and if I do, will I ac­tu­ally find it more re­ward­ing than the ran­dom “blow­ing off steam” ac­tivi­ties that cur­rently oc­cupy most of my free time?

To hold my­self ac­countable, I cre­ated a sec­tion in the Per­sonal Growth Jour­nal I founded due to this run of the ex­per­i­ment, in which I spec­ify falsifi­able tests of whether the First Steps gen­er­ated by I Ching re­flec­tion are lead­ing to gen­uine pos­i­tive be­hav­ior change.

Ap­prox­i­mate time to com­plete this doc­u­ment:

3 hours—is it worth the time?