The I Ching Series (2/10): How should I prioritize my career-building projects?


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.
  • I will do ten I Ching sessions, about every six weeks. Eight out of ten sessions must produce at least one new piece of evidence, or else I'll abandon the practice. Overall, the evidence should fall within at least two of the following categories. Final evaluation: this session counts as a success.
  • Definition of valid evidence
    • Serious work, and "mid-term exam" success, on novel ideas generated by the I Ching, or on projects that I’ve neglected at least 6 weeks.
    • Insights that I can articulate, that I still fully agree with after six weeks, that seem to improve my daily decisions and mental health, and that seem sensible to my friends. I will keep the fact that I used the I Ching to generate these insights a secret until the end of the project.
  • I will treat the most challenging parts of my reading as if they were true and important. After all, the strangest parts of the reading might be most valuable, if the point of the I Ching is to bust you out of ruts.
  • Week 6 update (final):
    • I feel that my EA community projects and networking were successes.
    • Just yesterday, I discovered the concept of "Deep Work" and implemented a rules-based plan that I think will help me both work, play, and rejuvenate more effectively.
    • My habit of more careful academic work paid off, but I still was not 100% consistent with following the detailed assignment specs from my last class.
  • Week 4 update:
    • My EA community projects work has continued to be fruitful. We've conducted many interviews with EA career changers, set up an EA video chat service that's been used by about 40 people, and have more in the works.
    • I have done a great deal of networking via email and in-person meetings in the last two weeks, which led me to decide to change colleges and helped me hone in on what I want to study. I've preserved what I learned from each of these meetings and correspondences in a journal, which I think may prove useful to others as well.
    • "Joy time" has remained mostly unrewarding, and my QoL has declined over the last two weeks. I intend to focus on planning novel, social, unruly and self-expressive activities, and using meditation or reading rather than pot and TV to relax.
    • My consistent double-checking habit has continued and been important in helping me succeed in class.
  • Week 2 update:
    • Using the I Ching caused me to reflect on my feelings and needs, which led to a post in the EA forums, which led to being contacted by a collaborator, which has led to a set of absorbing community-building projects, one of which will launch tomorrow.
    • It spurred me to set up a meeting with a professor at another college.
    • It has also led the idea of cultivating a "joy time" habit that initially improved my QoL, but became boring within a few days.

Preliminary Reflection:

I found myself selecting for cautious questions: nothing too intimate, potentially disruptive, or boring. I continued to edit my question until it had the right balance of being open-ended and specific, challenging but not precipitous. This was motivated in part by knowing that I was going to post about it publicly, and that I wanted to act on the results, not shy away from them. I don’t usually take time to consider what sort of question to ask. Calibrating questions more carefully, and preregistering my analysis seem like powerful ways to advance personal growth.


How should I prioritize my career-building projects?

Post-Run Reflection:

This was more productive than I expected, the most useful personal journaling I’ve done. Was the I Ching necessary, or would any self-help or wisdom literature work just as well? Yet I'm worried that these first steps and insights will prove illusory. I fear that personal journaling can be an addictive substitute for working directly on hard projects - a form of “pretending to actually try.” Adding this level of structure may only provide a more convincing illusion of usefulness.

Approximate time to complete this document:

3 hours initially, plus 30 minutes or so of updating every two weeks, averaging 15 minutes a day. That seems like a reasonable amount of time to spent on personal journaling.


Next: Run 3/10 Prev: Run 1/10