Paradoxical Advice Thread

(Edited to be more clear)

One can find plenty of witty ad­vice catch phrases that ap­pear to be in di­rect con­flict with each other: “Early bird gets the work, but the sec­ond mouse gets the cheese” (from a com­ment be­low)

You can also find this with things that are more de­tailed frames than cliche ad­vice. One that I’ve been mul­ling over is “de­ci­sion mak­ers need skin in the game to not be act stupid” and “asym­met­ric jus­tice (peo­ple be­ing pun­ished for mess­ing up) in­cen­tives in­ac­tion.”

The “qual­ity” of any ad­vice varies wildly with what you are try­ing to do and what your spe­cific con­text is. It’s not go­ing to be the case that the “best” thing for ev­ery­one to do is ei­ther fol­low the man­date of “have skin in the game” or “avoid asym­met­ric jus­tice”. In fact, you might be think­ing about ways that those to ideas aren’t even re­ally at odds with each other. Yet my per­sonal ex­pe­rience was hear­ing about skin in the game, go­ing “that sounds ob­vi­ously im­por­tant”, hear­ing about asym­met­ric jus­tice and go­ing “this sounds ob­vi­ously im­por­tant”, and later in a con­ver­sa­tion with a friend go­ing, “Wait a sec­ond, my low re­s­olu­tion un­der­stand­ing of these ideas puts them in di­rect odds with each other.”

I’ve learned a bit from hunt­ing for pairs of ad­vice/​prin­ci­ples that both sound like good ideas to me, but at first glance seem to be at odds. Then ex­plor­ing “why do they feel like they con­flict?” Some­times I find that they don’t ac­tu­ally ad­vise com­pletely differ­ent ap­proaches. Some­times I find that each piece of ad­vice is pay­ing at­ten­tion to a differ­ent di­men­sion of trade off, and that con­ceiv­ably I could do well by pay­ing at­ten­tion to each di­men­sion sep­a­rately.

I’m invit­ing peo­ple to use this post to doc­u­ment para­doxes you find in your own think­ing. Ex­plore where the sense of con­flict comes from, what there is to learn from each side of the, what a syn­the­sis might be, or when one might ap­ply more than an­other.

Don’t feel like you have to solve the whole thing, just try and un­ravel the prob­lem space a bit.