True if you squint at it right: Learning more about “how things work” is a journey that starts at “Life is a simple and easy game with random outcomes” and ends in “Life is a complex and thought intensive game with deterministic outcomes”
When I was doing 6 months of TAPs one of the big things I noticed was that when I disengaged from a TAP (or the TAP was bubbling up to the top layer of conscious awareness, but was dismissed before getting to the top, but still while there was some awareness on it) there was a feeling of, “Oh, I not actually convinced of the purpose and mission of this TAP right now”. Once or twice I gained insight from exploring that lack of conviction, and found a hole in the logic of my TAP.
I notice a similar experience in meditation. On the mornings when I feel the most disengaged, and returning to the breath is the most “chore like”, I notice that there’s some way in which I’m no longer convinced that returning to the breath is “the best use of my time”.
I think I can relate. You made me notice that there are two things I could point to when talking of “deep learning”. One is “making a piece of knowledge or information a deeply ingrained, easily accessible piece of me” and the other is, “not having any whole in my conceptual understanding, every piece of info is well connected in my knowledge graph and well motivated, and things make sense in a powerful way”.
I’m very excited to see the rest of this! Last spring I wrote the first post for a sequence that had very similar intents. You posting this has given me a nudge to move forward with mine. Here’s a brief outline of things I was going to look at (might be useful for you to further clarify to yourself the specific chunks of this topic you are trying to explore)
Give some computer architecture arguments for why it’s hard to get something to be agent like, and why those arguments might apply to our minds.
Explore how social pressure to “act like an agent” and conform to the person-hood interface makes it difficult to notice one’s own non-agentyness.
For me (and I’d guess others) a lot of my intentional S2 frames for valuing people seems to put a lot of weight on how “agenty” someone is. I would like to dwell on a “rescuing the utility function” like move for agency.
I really like the “positive reviews should look like X, negative reviews should look like Y” information. I’ve never seen it before, and I expect it to actually be useful when looking for resources.
I’m cofused by how “deep” and “surface” are being used in your first picture. From how the “What” and “How” books are described (and from the examples you give), I would have called “What” the deep resource, and “How” as the “surface level” resource. How are you thinking of it?
“learned something along the way” is the wrong level
Agreed. When I used to think of “learning something along the way”, it was a very passive sort of framing. I wasn’t able to think of search/exploit as a very active, “fractal and recursive” activity.
Though, like you said, I’ve heard of these ideas in startup land before, I found your post particularly lucid. Last spring when I tried a TAP a week, I had the learning-intention and also had a hard time articulating that.
I notice there’s also an uncomfortable sort of suffering I experience when I approach a task/project/goal that is fundamentally a learning/explore objective, but I think of it as a doing/exploit. It feels like me getting hyper focused on the outcome/production, and if I don’t get the one I want I dismiss thoughts of “Well you learned something along the way!” as grasping a straws/justification.
I skimmed the excercise since I couldn’t think of a recent concrete example, but I really enjoyed this post! I like how you took something that I’ve seen tossed around for a while, “There’s an important way in which akrasia isn’t real” and expanded it fully. Previously, I’ve wanted to express this to a friend but didn’t have a way of doing that I think would be useful, but now I’ll be referencing this post.
I vaguely remember a comment, possibly from a post in the last year or two, where someone said something like, “The highest return, under appreciated, life improvements you could make right now are fixing the relationships with your family and those close to you [… some other stuff...]“. Does anyone remember this comment and or have a link to it?
The slogan version of some thoughts I’ve been having lately are in the vein of “Hurry is the root of all evil”. Thinking in terms of code. I’ve been working in a new dev environment recently and have felt the siren song of, “Copy the code in the tutorial. Just import all the packages they tell you to. Don’t sweat the details man, just go with it. Just get it running.” All that as opposed to “Learn what the different abstractions are grounded in, figure out what tools do what, figure out exactly what I need, and use whatever is necessary to accomplish it.”
When I ping myself about why the former feels to have tug, I come up with 1). a tiny fear of not being capable of understanding the fine details and 2). a tiny fear that if understanding is possible, it will take a lot of time and WE’RE RUNNING OUT OF TIME!
Which is interesting, because this is just a side project that I’m doing for fun over winter break, which is specifically designed to get me to learn more.
Had a similar style bug while programming today. I caught it much faster though I can’t say if that can be attributed to previously identifying this pattern. But did think of the previous big as soon as I made the mental leap to figure out what was wrong this time.
(technically two different techniques, but they play into each other so well)
Context: I’m a student, so all of my “work” is school stuff or fun side projects. Also, I just need to get things done my deadlines, and have no, “I’m at the place of work for X hours and need to appear active for all of them.”
Time blocking is just going “I’m going to work on X for Y minutes/hours” and then doing it. If you get done early, great, you can stop. If you had a task in mind to complete, but didn’t finish it in Y minutes, that’s too bad, you have to stop working.
To be more flexible, I sometimes set up time blocks with conditionals. “I’ve got time in my schedule for a 2 hour morning block, and one after lunch. I expect X to only take 2 hours, but if it takes longer I’ve got the back up block.” I’m cool with changing plans, but a key idea is to not end up “just working forever”.
Time Blocking feels distinct from Pomodoros, which I know someone else mentioned. You can easily turn a Pomodor
No Timepieces is this: When doing work blocks, I strictly use timers instead of watching the clock. This actually extends beyond time blocks. I’ve gotten rid of my watch, and the clock on my computer. I try to make decisions
I do this because I noticed that it becomes much easier to loose steam if I realize that I’m 15-5 min away from the end of a time block. I also do it because I noticed that whenever I started to run up against hard problems, the very first distraction I would engage in would be to look at the clock (probably because it only required a head turn, and it doesn’t feel like a distraction). When I was still habituating to No Timepieces, I would often look at my empty wrist, be surprised, and then realize “Oh, yeah, I’m encountering a hard problem and was trying to distract myself.” Now a days I don’t look at my wrist, but there is still a mental loop of, “I wonder what time it is?” and it helps me notice distraction.
Time blocking seems to mostly have the effect of making my commitments very concrete and clear. I’m not sitting down to “work for a while”, I’m sitting down to work on X for 3 hours. In making a time block, I’ve already freed the time, so even if 20 minutes in I feel “Oh shit, I’m going to make very little progress” that’s okay, because I’ve already checked that it’s okay to spend 3 hours banging my head against something.
No Timepieces has given a lot of insight into how I distract myself. I’ve come to believe that almost all instances of me checking the time are some form of me trying to escape from the reality I’m in. “Maybe if I look at my watch, I’ll see that it’s time to stop working, and then I can stop!” or similarly it provides the escape hatch of, “hm, it’s 2:30pm. Wasn’t something happening at 4? Dinner? No, meeting Michael. Ooh, Michael’s in town, I wonder what he’s been working on?”
Thank you for posting this! I’m excited to go through the links later this weekend.
Have kept a continuous streak. On a handful of days, something happened in the morning and I mediated in the evening, which was a good bit harder.
I started to use Seinfeld calendar streak idea (replacing “X”s with green arrows) and it’s been surprisingly pleasant. I get way more joy than anticipated from being able to put a green arrow on the wall every day, and to see a long chain of green arrows on said wall. One day over thanksgiving, morning meditation didn’t work out, and I was going to drop it that day (it felt okay on a principled level, since thanksgiving was when I was originally intending to re-calibrate my intentions) but as soon as I imagined my calendar not having those green arrows I felt a huge emotional shift. Also interesting, it didn’t feel like a guilt trip, it felt more like, “I can’t allow this to happen because then I don’t get my amazingly beautiful green arrows and there will be an ugly whole on the calendar, and that’s just not how the world is going to be if I have anything to say about it”.
Only update on meditation “progress” is that I feel little to no resistance to spending time meditating. There’s no ugg field around “having” to do it when I wake up, when I sit down I’m mostly excited, and when it’s getting to the end of the 30 minutes I’m rarely restless/“just waiting for it to be over”. Mind wandering vs breath focus time doesn’t seem to have changed much.
I still haven’t read all the way through the mind illuminated. That might happen over winter break, but it’s not a super high priority.
I think my new intention is continue meditating daily into the foreseeable future. The shape of my time is regular enough that I don’t expect this to be a huge challenge, and since I’ve gotten more comfortable with spending time meditating I’d be very surprised at some internal jumping-ship.
If things ever get more chaotic, on Malcolm Ocean’s recommendation I think I’m going to try the don’t skip twice approach (raemon also mentions it in sunset at noon which is still a great post a year later)
This post and some other LW post (I think a zvi “problems with the Bay” post) are the only times I’ve encountered a story of someone showing up several hours late to something. I really don’t want to trivialize the problem of general group coordination, but stories like that (which to me feel like HUGE problems) make me learn towards the belief that there’s some basic “how to group” education that is missing.
To anyone who is part of multiple dissimilar social groups, I would be interested in hearing if you’ve noticed anything like, “Oh, my XYZ group always has coordination problems 1), 2), and 3), but my ABC group has almost none.”
For the past one and a half years I’ve done time tracking of work for school (and less rigorous tracking of time towards other pursuits). This was also a time period where I was training myself to be better at deep work.
My main intents for time tracking was to know how long work actually took so I’d get better at making future time estimates. Also during this time, each week I would time block out when I was going to work on what for the entire week, and I had something like a 95% success rate with that. (deviations came mostly from a mix of “I’m not in a good physical state because of an unusual reason for staying up late” (which were fixed by having enough slack to just take a nap) or a few “lost purpose/this work sucks” slumps (dealt with via realizing what felt dumb about the work and letting myself feel okay with doing the minimum))
I ask about how you’re framing “productive hours”. I’d generally only 3-5deep work hours in a day. I’ve yet to try (thought now I’m curious) but I’d be confident that I couldn’t do 12 deep work hours a day. Though I could definitely do “12 hours a day that I reflectively endorse and that was all aimed towards things I care about”.
What sort of “12 productive hours” are you shooting for?
Claim: There’s a headspace you can be in where you don’t have a bucket for explore/babble. If you are entertaining an idea or working through a plan, it must be because you already expect it to work/be interesting. If your prune filter is also growing in strength and quality, then you will be abandoning ideas and plans as soon as you see any reasonable indicator that they won’t work.
Missing that bucket and enhancing your prune filter might feel like you are merely growing up, getting wiser, or maybe more cynical. This will be really strongly felt if the previous phase in your life involved you diving into lots of projects only to realize some time and money later that they won’t work out. The mental motion of, “Aha! This plan leaves ABC completely unspecified and I’d probably fall apart when reaching that roadblock,” will be accompanied by a, “Man, I’m so glad I noticed that, otherwise I would have wasted a whole day/week/month. Go prune!“.
Until you get a new bucket for explore, and attempts to get you to “think big” and “get creative” and “let it all out in a brainstorm” will feel like attacks on your valuable time. Somehow, you need to get a strong felt sense for explore being it’s own, completely viable option, which in no way obliges you to act on what you’ve explored.
Next thoughts: What is needed for me to deeply feel explore as an option, and what things might be stopping me from doing so? *tk*
Idea that I’m going to use in these short form posts: for ideas/things/threads that I don’t feel are “resolved” I’m going to write “*tk*” by the most relevant sentence for easy search later (I vaguely remember Tim Ferris talking about using “tk” as a substitute for “do research and put the real numbers in” since “tk” is not a letter pair that shows up much in English words. )
Ahh, the “meta-thoughts” idea in seems like a useful thing to apply if/when this happens again.
(which begs the questions, when I wrote the above comment, why didn’t I have the meta-thought that I did in the linked comment? (I don’t feel up to thinking about that in this moment)) *tk*