I Ching Exploratory Run 2/10


Note: See comments for my actual writings in response to I Ching Hexagram interpretations. This main post is for meta-reflection on the experiment.

The Rules:

  • No divination-related questions
  • Schelling Fence 1 (from first experiment): I will do no more than 10 I Ching experimental runs unless I can obtain at least 1 genuinely useful action or insight
  • To be considered useful, use of I Ching must lead to significant actions I was not otherwise planning to take, or to insights that seem valuable to others. These insights or actions must not be divination-related, and the method by which they were generated must be kept hidden.
  • I’ve heard advice that parts of answers that seem wrong or irrelevant should be ignored. Yet if the point of the I Ching is to bust you out of mental ruts, it seems like the most unlikely parts might be the most valuable. I will therefore take special care to treat these most challenging parts as if they were right.
  • Schelling Fence 2 (from this experiment): To be considered useful, I Ching work must spur effortful, off-of-butt activity on projects I’ve known are important but that I’ve neglected at least 6 weeks; produce genuinely novel ideas that in turn lead to effortful projects that I carry through to completion; or provide clarity on dilemmas in a way that lasts at least 6 weeks, and influences consequential decisions or significant daily time use. It should produce at least two of these three categories, and at least 4 examples. I will list these qualifying proofs in a falsifiable manner, and will not do more than 10 I Ching experimental runs until I have acquired sufficient evidence based on the first 10.

Preliminary Reflection:

As I knew that I was going to post about this experiment publicly, and that to be useful I needed to take my results seriously as a guide to action, I found myself selecting for cautious questions: nothing too intimate, potentially disruptive, boring to write about, etc. In fact, I don’t usually take time to consider what sort of question to ask. Both the ask of question-selection and the filter imposed by this procedure seem themselves to be potentially valuable new forms of personal inquiry. After constructing the first form of the question, I continued to edit it until it seemed to strike the right balance between being open-ended and specific.


How should I prioritize my career-building projects?

Post-Run Reflection:

I feel that this was more concretely productive than I expected. Certainly it is the most useful pure personal journaling I’ve ever done. Was the I Ching necessary, or would any arbitrary selection of self-help/wisdom literature work just as well? I am still dubious about how many of these “First Steps” and insights will prove concretely useful in the future. I also remain suspicious that personal journaling can be an addictive substitute for working directly on harder projects - a form of “pretending to actually try.” Adding this level of structure may only provide a more convincing illusion of actually being useful.

In order to feel more confident, I would want to see butt-out-of-chair outcomes. Will I actually contact other local community college programs and consider alternatives? Will I implement the “always check tests and homework for completion and calculator errors” rule I generated? Will I actually set aside more regular “joy time” than I’ve done for the last year, and if I do, will I actually find it more rewarding than the random “blowing off steam” activities that currently occupy most of my free time?

To hold myself accountable, I created a section in the Personal Growth Journal I founded due to this run of the experiment, in which I specify falsifiable tests of whether the First Steps generated by I Ching reflection are leading to genuine positive behavior change.

Approximate time to complete this document:

3 hours - is it worth the time?