[Question] Babble challenge: 50 ways of solving a problem in your life

Back again. Let’s become stronger.

This week’s challenge:

Years ago you found yourself hurled into existence, facing a vast universe with a mind capable of the Art of Rationality, reading a LessWrong post at this very moment.

Yet in your life there is a particular problem. I don’t know what it is. Maybe your chair is uncomfortable; you’re not getting as high scores as you want at the Math Olympiad; or you’ve got insomnia.

Whatever it is, pick one specific problem in your life.

Find a way to solve it.

You have 1 hour to come up with 50 ways.

(But no need to implement the solutions within 1 hour!)

Looking back

Here are the champions who made it to 50 last week, with stars indicating their streak:

★★★ Slider, gjm, Harmless, jacobjacob, Tetraspace Grouping

★★ athom, johnswentworth, ryan_b, Ericf, Bucky, Mark Xu, CptDrMoreno, Yonge

★ TurnTrout, Tighe, knite

Why measure streaks?

Last week Bucky commented:

I don’t like measuring things by streaks—if you want to do a list I think doing it by total number of challenges completed is better. Streaks are a less accurate indication of effort put in or potential gains achieved and have more potential to create unhealthy incentives.

But I disagree. I replied:

One of the goals of the challenge is building a culture of practice. I think consistency is an incredibly important part of that. That’s how you get compound returns. A portfolio that grows 7% every year will grow ~30x over fifty years. But a portfolio that grows that much only every other year will only grow about ~5x. (Even though the first one only put in “twice as much effort”.)

Moving forwards

I’m now entering week 4 out of the 7-week babble streak I committed to. If you want more regularity in practicing your creativity, feel free to post a comment committing to also going all the way to 7.

This week we’re trying something new: applied babble. I haven’t tried it before, so am very curious to see what will happen. Feel free to add a note to your comment about how useful you found the exercise, and whether you thought about good things you hadn’t considered before.


  • 50 answers or nothing. Shoot for 1 hour.

Any answer must contain 50 ideas to count. That’s the babble challenge.

However, the 1 hour limit is a stretch goal. It’s fine if it takes longer to get to 50.

  • Post your answers inside of spoiler tags. (How do I do that?)

  • Celebrate other’s answers.

This is really important. Sharing babble in public is a scary experience. I don’t want people to leave this having back-chained the experience “If I am creative, people will look down on me”. So be generous with those upvotes.

If you comment on someone else’s post, focus on making exciting, novel ideas work — instead of tearing apart worse ideas.

Reward people for babbling — don’t punish them for not pruning.

I might remove comments that break this rule.

  • Not all your ideas have to work.

The prompt is very underspecified. If your chair is uncomfortable, consider sitting on a sofa, on the ground, in a pool, or on a trampoline. I’ve often found that 1 great idea can hide among 10 bad ones. You just need to push through the worse ones. Keep talking. To adapt Wayne Gretzky’s great quote: “You miss 100% of the ideas you never generate.”

  • My main tip: when you’re stuck, say something stupid.

If you spend 5 min agonising over not having anything to say, you’re doing it wrong. You’re being too critical. Just lower your standards and say something, anything. Soon enough you’ll be back on track.

This is really, really important. It’s the only way I’m able to complete these exercises.

Now, go forth and babble! 50 ways of solving a problem in your life!