This is part 15 of 30 of Hammertime. Click here for the intro.

Another of CFAR’s running themes is: Try Things!

When you’re considering adopting new habits or ideas, there’s no better way to gather data than actually trying […] This is particularly important because when something does work out, you get to keep doing it.

Hammertime will suggest lots of object-level advice. Try them all! A one-in-ten success rate may not feel encouraging, but you can repeat anything that actually works hundreds or thousands of times throughout your life.

Here’s a rule of thumb: if there’s a 1% chance it’ll regularly help in the long run, it’s worth trying for five minutes.

Day 15: CoZE

Previously: Day 5.

The basic CoZE experiment technique is:

  1. Pick an experience to explore. This should be outside your comfort zone.
  2. Devise an experiment or series of experiments. Deconstruct your path from Point A to Point B into palatable baby steps.
  3. Try it! At each step, pay close attention to your internal experience, and make sure you’re not forcing yourself into anything. You’re free to stop at any point.

Today I dispel the illusion that every CoZE experiment should be glamorous. Then, I integrate Aversion Factoring directly into the technique.

Unglamorous CoZE

When I first learned about CoZE, I immediately imagined awesome, courageous, and glamorous experiments. Breaking through to my deepest emotions after subsisting for a month on nootropics and Buddhism, while stranded naked in Siberia. Lucid dreaming in a group hug with Kalahari bushmen while skydiving. Doing a one-finger handstand balanced on a unicycle while delivering extemporaneous limericks to Carnegie Hall.

Your comfort zone limits you in all directions, not just the glamorous ones. The most useful direction to expand can be orthogonal or even opposite to the instinctively shiny ones.

Unglamorous CoZE is expanding in these directions. Breaking down private fears and aversions that nobody will congratulate you for conquering. Trying out socially discouraged activities and points of view. Expansion towards an unappealing role doesn’t mean you have to inhabit that role forever – it just gives you a peek into your own versatility, the multitude of roles you could inhabit in different circumstances.

Exercise: Pick a glamorous CoZE experiment you tried in the past. Design a CoZE experiment to grow in the reverse direction. Set a Yoda Timer and explore it!

Aversion Factoring and the CoZE Recursion

Previously: Day 7.

It’s high time we start building compound exercises out of our Hammertime techniques. Aversion Factoring fits seamlessly into the prep work for a CoZE experiment. Last time on CoZE, we refrained from attempting CoZE in directions blocked by noticeable aversions, but with the help of Aversion Factoring, we’re ready to tackle these tougher challenges.

Recall the three steps of Aversion Factoring:

  1. Articulate Aversions: List as many aversions as you can. Be honest and pay attention to trivial inconveniences.
  2. Decide Whether to Endorse: Determine if each aversion serves a valid purpose.
  3. Solve or Reduce: Try to modify the activity to solve endorsed aversions. Use CoZE to wipe out unendorsed ones.

This brings us to our first compound hammer: the CoZE Recursion.

The CoZE Recursion

  1. Pick an experience to explore.
  2. Devise an experiment or series of experiments.
  3. Aversion factor each step: Articulate your aversions. Modify the experiments to minimize endorsed aversions. Recursively apply CoZE to wipe out un-endorsed aversions.
  4. Try the modified experiment(s).


CoZE public speaking. Notice aversion to all social situations. CoZE speaking with individuals. Notice social aversion due to (endorsed) insecurity about fashion sense. CoZE clothes-shopping. Notice aversion to frivolous expenditure.

God help you if the last aversion had expanded into an infinite loop: Notice aversion to buying clothes because lack friends with good fashion sense. CoZE making friends…

You may discover aversions during the experiments themselves. This is fine. Continue to Aversion Factor them. Difficult bugs can generally require up to three layers of recursion.

Exercise: Pick a moderately scary (4-7 on the Bug List) experience to CoZE on up to. Set a Yoda Timer to design CoZE experiments to make progress towards it. Find a time to execute them in the near future.

Daily Challenge

Today’s challenge is a question: is courage just the absence of fear?

If there is a meaningful difference between the two, is CoZE primarily about increasing courage or reducing fear? Whichever it is, is there an alternative method to do the other?


3 comments, sorted by Highlighting new comments since Today at 9:50 AM
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The absence of fear is recklessness. Courage is about not being subject to fear. CoZE hopefully both increases courage and reduces fear for those things for which fear is unjustified. It should increase fear for things it's good to be afraid of.

One way to see fear would be as a 'feeling' that signifies expectation of failure, possibly grand 'loss' of something dear.

Courage is often usually described as "Doing something even if you're afraid"

Then fear could stem from some internalized beliefs and could be reduced with CBT exercises that examine true roots of the beliefs, fear could be changed by new experiences.

I'd guess CoZE works by creating new automatic assessment of the situation that currently seems dangerous, decreasing fear

What could increase courage?

Probably having clear goals, maybe making them somehow closer in time.

I'd guess creating self-image of a courageous person could help, i.e getting confidence in other areas of life.

I've heard that "leaving no line to retreat" might make people more courageous, but that could be dangerous.

Conceptual bug in the first assignment here: assumes I have previously tried a "glamorous" CoZE

(relatedly: it would be useful here to have more details about how to CoZE, with examples perhaps; this description is fairly bare-bones, though usable)