Bug Hunt 3

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This is part 21 of 30 in the Ham­mer­time Se­quence. Click here for the in­tro.

I took a long break from Ham­mer­time to check the fun­da­men­tal ques­tion: am I ac­tu­ally bet­ter at achiev­ing my val­ues now?

The an­swer is a solid yes. Prob­lems that used to live in the cat­e­gory of “not within my ca­pa­bil­ities” dis­in­te­grated into so many puffs of malev­olent smoke. Paper-writ­ing got it­self done. Fif­teen hun­dred words of half-de­cent fic­tion got writ­ten ev­ery day. For the first time in my life, I live in such a thought­fully dec­o­rated room I’ll ac­tu­ally miss it when I move away. I felt like a ra­tio­nal­ity War­lock:

A high-level Aver­sion ap­pears…Hah! With the power of FOCUSING, I’ll scry your true name, De­mon!

“Sta­tus Reg­u­la­tion, Be­gone!”

This sec­tion feels im­pos­si­ble to write…

I know! I’ll do it in FIVE MINUTES!

I have no idea what my prob­lem is…

Fear not! I’ll blast it with the magic of FRIENDSHIP!

So you’re stuck on a quest to save the world…


If you’re read­ing Ham­mer­time sim­ply for my scin­til­lat­ing wit, that’s com­pletely fine! Just re­mem­ber that these tech­niques might also help you achieve your val­ues if you give them a chance.

Ham­mer­time: The Third Cycle

Twice and thrice over, as they say, good is it to re­peat and re­view what is good.
~ Plato.

The third cy­cle is ten days of re­view. On each day, we will at­tempt to tease out the unify­ing meta-prin­ci­ples be­hind each tech­nique, tak­ing them (and all the oth­ers) to the limit of their power. Here’s a ten­ta­tive sched­ule:

  1. Bug Hunt 3

  2. Yoda Timers 3: Speed

  3. TAPs 3: Reductionism

  4. De­sign 3: Intentionality

  5. CoZE 3: Empiricism

  6. Growth Triplets

  7. In­ter­nal Dou­ble Crux: Duality

  8. Fo­cus­ing 2: Fusion

  9. Mur­phyjitsu 2: Humility

  10. TDT 2: Post-Consequentialism

Day 21: Bug Hunt 3

To­day we’re back to Bug Hunt with three more sets of prompts to help find the biggest bot­tle­necks in your life. After you read each, set a Yoda Timer to brain­storm bugs.

1. Get­ting Got

The world is Out to Get You. So­cial me­dia. Cap­i­tal­ism. Your job. Your fam­ily. Your friends. Your hob­bies. Every­one wants your time, money, and at­ten­tion. How do you keep your­self from Get­ting Got all the time?

Do you know how to say no? If you don’t Get Gone reg­u­larly, you’re easy pick­ings. Things are of­ten worse than they ap­pear. Things de­te­ri­o­rate over time. Things want more and more of your soul. There’s no such thing as a one-hour game of Civ. Get Gone. You don’t owe any­body ev­ery­thing.

Do you know how to set bound­aries? Some things can only be Worth It if you can draw a line in the sand. Set a bud­get. Or a timer. Get Com­pact and hold the line as if your life de­pends on it.

2. Ham­ming Problems

Back­ground read­ing: Anx­ious Un­der­con­fi­dence and Sta­tus Regulation

What are the im­por­tant prob­lems of your field?
What im­por­tant prob­lems are you work­ing on?
If what you are do­ing is not im­por­tant, and if you don’t think it is go­ing to lead to some­thing im­por­tant, why are you … work­ing on it?

~ Richard Ham­ming.

To take an in­cre­men­tal ap­proach: are there slightly more im­por­tant prob­lems you could be work­ing on? Why aren’t you work­ing on them?

Anx­ious Un­der­con­fi­dence is an ar­ti­fact of an an­ces­tral en­vi­ron­ment where ev­ery failure is fatal. Do you have Anx­ious Un­der­con­fi­dence? How of­ten have you failed on a sig­nifi­cant un­der­tak­ing in the last year? Don’t max­i­mize your per­centage of wins. Max­i­mize to­tal num­ber of wins. That’s what counts.

Do you use sta­tus as a proxy for com­pe­tence? Do you be­lieve that only peo­ple with tenure, wealth, age, or so­cial cap­i­tal have the right to work on im­por­tant prob­lems? Is your as­sess­ment of your own abil­ities a func­tion of how oth­ers per­ceive you?

3. Fail Grace­fully, Suc­ceed with Abandon

Back­ground read­ing: Failing with Aban­don.

There’s a Chi­nese idiom, 破罐子破摔, which means: “might as well smash a cracked pot.” Failing with aban­don is an­grily smash­ing a pot with the slight­est crack. “I didn’t like it any­way!”

Does that ap­peal to you?

Failing with Aban­don ig­nores the fact that util­ity func­tions are usu­ally con­tin­u­ous. Failing a lit­tle is OK. Keep at it. Some­thing is bet­ter than noth­ing.

Failing with Aban­don takes away valuable learn­ing ex­pe­riences. If the last home­work can’t save your grade, do you still put in the same effort? If you’re twenty points down in a game of Go, do you still try your best? Or do you just go through the mo­tions? Life is a very long iter­ated game, and Failing with Aban­don is forfeit­ing the fu­ture.

On the flip side, do you always satis­fice? Do you turn in the bare min­i­mum to make a GPA? When you hit the tar­get, do you run home to party? If you’re up twenty points in a game of Go, do you play im­proper but safe moves to se­cure the win? Satis­fic­ing is giv­ing up an op­por­tu­nity to reach your full po­ten­tial.

Failing with Aban­don and satis­fic­ing are both symp­toms of near-sighted hy­per­bolic dis­count­ing.

In­stead, fail grace­fully. Suc­ceed with aban­don.

Daily Challenge

Are you bet­ter at achiev­ing your val­ues since Ham­mer­time Day 1? If so, what helped?

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