Please do! That’s fascinating
“You’ll feel so much better” and “it’s healthy” were the main reasons I was told to start exercising. I guess that’s true, but after lifting for 7 years consistently, the main thing I noticed that no one told me was “you’ll gain this superpower of every social interaction being a bit tilted more in your favor”. Getting a good haircut for the first time ever probably helped too. The difference in how I’m listened to and treated is clear—people are much more interested in what I have to say.
(Off topic, but I wish there was something like an aesthetician shop, focused empirically on appearing as good as possible. They could give you a haircut, recommend you clothes, do your eyebrows, etc. I think these exist but my guess is that the real thing is in a walled garden, i.e. you have to be somebody. I’d love this because I don’t really care how I look personally—I’d want someone to figure that out for me)
Commenting here to complete my 30 day streak. I’ll write up my final exam sometime this week and edit this with a link. I really appreciated the sequence! A lot has happened over the last month and it was nice to have a Hammertime post to return to every day.
edit: Looks like I didn’t keep my promise!
A while back in high school, a talented acquaintance of mine started promoting their music before it was good. They did the whole nine yards—bought fake social media followers, created their own fan pages, bought ads, a photoshoot, etc. They would not stop talking about their upcoming success in the music industry. Almost a decade later, they are working odd jobs, hoping to “blow up”.
The lesson I took from that (back then) was “do not promote until you have the finished product. Do not talk about what you do until it’s good enough, just put your head down and get better.” I spent almost a decade making unfinished project after unfinished project, unwilling to release or promote them because they weren’t “good enough yet”. I way overcompensated.
In this case, the cure was worse than the disease (even though I greatly improved) because putting out bad music wouldn’t mean that I’d be known as a person who puts out bad music—I’d be known as “a person who puts out music”, which is a valuable thing. I’d be much more prone to positive black swan events from having my name out there. Plus, it’s not like I would stop improving—I could’ve easily had the best of both worlds.
I’m now aiming at the synthesis of those two views—being humble and diligent about improving while being okay with putting out imperfect things. 80% of 1000 > 100% of 0.
I IDC-ed the part of me that wants to go to bed and the part of me that wants to follow through on trying each day’s exercise and posting a comment. I first named them “I should do what naturally feels good” and “I keep commitments”.
“Commitment” was the clear frontrunner (after all, I did do the exercise). There were the usual arguments about why it’s good to keep promises to yourself, about how being that type of person pays dividends, etc.
The other side surprised me. The first thing it said was “It’s not about just doing what’s most pleasurable, it’s about being flexible”. Woah. So I changed its name to “flexibility”and it began to feel like a disagreement between values instead of a fight between protagonist and antagonist (hedonism vs. virtue).
Changing the first side’s name opened the door to many more insights. I won’t bore you with the details of all of them, but the main one was that “people can tell when I’m not flexible” and that they (and I) generally have a better time around me when I’m open and flexible. It also made me realize that I pretty much only commit to myself.
I tend to go into “info-scavenge” mode as a form of escapism. I think I’ve internalized an avoidance of overt escapism on a subconscious level—i.e, I get antsy and feel “wrong” if I try to play video games as a way of procrastinating. Instead, I find myself shallowly skimming for into by scrolling through YouTube recommendations but not watching videos, looking at link aggregators (HN, Reddit) but not the actual links, etc. It’s like my brain found a loophole because that behavior is superficially similar to what “learning” looks like.
What would happen if every time you wanted to do that, you introspected instead?
I think it would be a big benefit. I’m not sure if “escapism-mode-me” would follow through. Recently I’ve been trying to go on walks without any goals other than thinking to myself. So far, after maybe 25 walks, I haven’t regretted a single one and it has often been the highlight of my day.
Overestimation: Running my first session in a legit music studio (after interning there)
I had only mixed/produced music “in the box” (on my laptop with software) before and figured I could just sit down at the Neve and do everything else the same. Nope, it was a nightmare. We went 3 hours over on the first day because I had to figure out so much on the fly. The amount of unknown unknowns that came up was staggering—this mic uses phantom power, how does this work in Pro Tools, which input is the synth patched into, what button for talkback, etc.
Luckily I got up to speed and now run sessions regularly, but that was a huge dose of reality.
Underestimation: Submitting a dev PR at work
Worked at a startup doing generalist tech/product things. I taught myself React and Python before starting but didn’t think I was good enough to get a programming job. After talking to the devs they let me try out a ticket. I worked on it and submitted it. It got accepted and merged in. Later I realized, “this is programming”.
I was starting to do more dev work but the company shut down recently. Oh well. It gave me the confidence to learn more though.
Praise: I appreciate your way of prodding the reader to question assumptions and unwritten rules. I feel like I’m getting a good sample of tools that have been genuinely useful to you, rather than something written purely for your ego.
Critique: I think the individual days could build on top of each other more, like prerequisites. I also think I’d benefit from doing the related days back to back, to build on familiarity with the concepts and techniques.
Are there particular people around whom you happen to always play Devil’s Advocate?
Yes, and I usually excuse it because I’m “trying to get to the truth” or something like that. But not everyone has signed up to play some epistemology game with me. Hm, I could probably be gentler, or at least somehow see if that’s where the person wants to go with the conversation.
Something is so satisfying about reductionism. Breaking things down does wonders for unlocking the “do anything” ability in me. Now the problem becomes aiming that superpower and following through, but it’s still a great tool to have.
I like the amended exercise below for emotionally aversive tasks, specifically iterating through and finding the most painful step and breaking that one down specifically.
Share anecdotes or data on how long it takes [intentions, projects, plans, relationships, careers, startups] to fail. What do the curves look like?
I’ve noticed a common theme in my life with things that end of: I. Solid, II. Wobble, III. Topple
Relationship is totally stable (months), notice some tension but nothing too crazy (months), relationship ends in a random 30 minute conversation
Startup is growing (years), some hiccups w/ large contracts (6 months), ends without warning in a single meeting
Consistently do habit (weeks/months), do habit but start fudging it for a week (bare minimum/changing expectations/cheating), miss a single day and completely stop
Ran a mile in 5:05
Typed the alphabet in 1.8 seconds
Wrote this in 15 seconds
Are you better at achieving your values since Hammertime Day 1? If so, what helped?
I think so—the following themes have mainly stuck out in the past few weeks:
Noticing—paying a bit more attention to my reactions and inspecting them with more curiosity
Clarity—writing out my semi stream of consciousness here has shown me patterns in my thoughts that I couldn’t see in my head
CoZE—I’ve been making an attempt to try new things and to notice when I have arbitrary unwritten rules
Doing rather than simulating—actually doing the exercises is much different than just thinking about them. Actually writing is much different than thinking about writing something. This has transferred a outside of Hammertime (I’m a broken record on this one)
Reductionism + recursion—Gives a great general framework for solving known unknowns
Trusting past me—I’ve noticed that I’m more willing to respect the choices and plans of the me of a few days/weeks ago. I’m tired currently, and I know it’s arbitrary, but the me of 20 days ago said he would comment every day, so I’m going to respect his wishes and do it.
Overall, I think writing out my thoughts, CoZE, and trusting my past self have given me the biggest benefits so far, which surprises me.
I have a habit of “ad-hoc Socratic Ducking” in the sense that I will talk out loud to someone about an idea I’m thinking of and explore it in real time, trying to see what it’s like and figure it out. The problem is that it can seem like I’m stating definite opinions about how the world works or a specific direction to take a project. This can get weird if it’s a taboo topic or a project that involves the person I’m talking to.
I feel like the key with this is awareness and encouragement. Both parties should be aware that they’re doing it, otherwise it can get complicated. If my partner doesn’t encourage me to go deeper, I may get self-conscious and turn off the idea-generator.
I tried to do an abbreviated ITT once—we ended up arguing about the setup/rules (or doing it at all) instead. Many people seem to not even want to pretend they could understand the other side’s viewpoint, as if it’s so morally repugnant that the ideas are unspeakable. I think this is often a thin veil to cover up for the mismatch between the fragility of one’s stance and the fervor they defend it with.
Some of my favorite conversations were with my college roommate as a freshman. Time became a limit—we had to choose what to talk about, otherwise we’d talk through the night. It felt like an all-you-can-eat-buffet of ideas and interesting thoughts—we started talking about something but then we’d see a new shiny thought somewhere else. So we started writing down the branches of our conversations so that we wouldn’t get too lost. I don’t think we ever really revisited it but it was a nice way to feel okay with deferring a certain branch of the conversation.
A lot of those branches still feel very open. Even though we haven’t talked about some of them for years, we’ve been able to pick right back up on a few of them.
Looking forward to talking to you!
Hitting the “0” willpower level might be when something becomes part of your identity. It costs me willpower to not do cardio or lift for more than a day or so—something feels off and aversive about it, just like it used to in the reverse situation. The only downside is that I’m not very excited or proud of myself for doing a workout, it’s just “normal”. But that’s life! I’m still glad I do it.
There are a few habits that I seem to drop once they get easy to do—I did yoga every day for a while but once it got easy and habitual I got bored and stopped. In retrospect I should’ve found a way to raise the difficulty, but for some reason that wasn’t clear at the time. Consciously planning around “what should I do if this gets boring” would probably help.
In Goal Factoring, does goal = motivation = desired outcome?
Currently procrastinating catching up on a few exercises
I want to follow through on my word to actually try every exercise
Perfectionism—don’t want to consider a day finished until I’ve really done it
Lonely—I don’t know anyone else IRL that would do this with me
I am highly motivated by social reenforcement
Feel guilty for not spending time on music/programming/career stuff
I am worried about the time I spend taxiing on the runway instead of just taking flight
Takes time and willpower
I often get distracted on the internet
My pomodoros/Yoda timers might be too short
Get clarity on next actions in life + help strategize
Collect useful techniques
Practice “doing” instead of simulating
Introspection and personal problem solving
Collect low-hanging fruit and obvious things I’ve ignored
Clear up to-dos on my own terms
Contributing and interacting more
There’s this feeling I get where I feel like my eyes are having a hard time focusing, I’m a little tired, and there’s a tingling in my forehead—like a precursor to a headache (almost like someone is hovering their finger between my eyebrows). I get this feeling if I’ve been doing empty, shallow, digital things for too long—glancing at headlines, procrastinating, etc.
I call it “malaise” or “UGH”. Not the most descriptive phrase, but putting a word to it helps me go, “oh I’m feeling that ‘malaise’ feeling, I should do X”.
Not a full technique but the seed of one—maybe it’s an obvious idea, but most of the times I made major leaps forward were when I stopped wasting time on tangential things and just “stared at the sun”. This is probably just a different name for deliberate practice. I need to remind myself that 70% of 100 is much bigger than 100% of 10 (doing an important thing passably vs. doing something unimportant perfectly).
I think courage is about getting comfortable with fear or doing the “right” action in spite of it. One of the things I’m most proud of was negotiating a raise. It went against all my social conditioning and was way out of my comfort zone. But say I negotiate raises 15 more times in my life. Is the 15th negotiation that courageous? Maybe it looks courageous externally, but internally I don’t think I’d feel it as much as the first one because my comfort zone has probably shifted. So maybe a measure of courage would be how far past your cozy set point you’re willing to go.
Never let your calendar become your tyrant. - I feel called out (and added a medium-large bug)! When I make calendar events I take them very seriously. This has been great for making myself following through on difficult things, but it also leads me to be stressed out if things don’t go according to plan (less spontaneity or doing things on a whim). I want to be more flexible but I also want to take my habits seriously. There’s a lot of tension here that I’m going to try to figure out more through the rest of this challenge—probably around adding more slack to my calendar.
A few resets of differing magnitudes:
In the 6 months before I stopped believing in God I became extremely religious. Same sort of thing happened with my political beliefs
So that I could fund my music career, I was learning linear algebra and Python to get a better job. A few months into it I realized I wasn’t working on music at all and may have been using programming and math as a pernicious procrastination mechanism. Now I’m still learning, but instead of letting it take my music time, I let it take my Netflix time.
Reading Infinite Jest taught me that I don’t need to get caught up in a game of irony/sarcasm, signalling and counter-signalling, and pretending not to care. I don’t need to signal intelligence though negativity or complexity for complexity’s sake. Reading that book cleared out a lot of toxicity in me
Idea I haven’t had time to express:
My brand of social anxiety (so I’m assuming others have it too) might come from the combinatorial explosion of more people in a group—thus more paths of information flows. I find it very easy to talk to someone 1 on 1, and I can usually have a good conversation with anyone. But once the group gets a bit bigger, I think I get a bit scrambled by trying to simulate all of the potential flows of information and feedback loops.
I think this is where politics (at a very basic level) can come from—once you hit 4 people in a group, you have 24* different permutations/factions/sub-groups.
So my thinking here is that I might be using an inefficient “theory of mind simulator” for more complicated scenarios, but I’m also interested in the System Theory of small groups (like bands).
That was tough! I took 7 minutes. Thank you for prompting me to think about that, I want to learn more and flesh it out. I’m circling around something but haven’t quite captured it yet.