Recovering from Failure

by lifelonglearner1 min read11th Jun 20175 comments


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My internal dialogue might look like, “Hey, I notice I want to play video games. I wonder that this is a symptom of? I recall that I often feel like this when I need to take some time to just cool off…”

This sounds like another way of lying to yourself. It seems a lot more likely that you actually want to play video games. Consider someone with a sweet tooth. If they say to themselves, "I guess my body needs energy which it can get from all sorts of other nutritious food," they might be aiming for something good (healthy food), but this is not a true description of what is happening. Their body really does want sugar, even if this is because in the ancestral environment this would also have promoted health. In a similar way, animals seem to have a desire for play, something which is both intellectually stimulating but also very safe. Video games are very optimized for this just as sweet things are very optimized for the body's desire for sugar. So it seems much more likely that you really want to play video games, and even if you manage to jam some other shape into that hole, you are in fact jamming something else into it.

even if you manage to jam some other shape into that hole, you are in fact jamming something else into it.

So... It is still masturbation no matter how you put it, huh?

Short summary: I often fall into bad spirals after breaking commitments to myself. This post is a combination of reasons to remind myself why 1 slip-up =/= total failure, a series of probing questions to dive into the actual slip-up, and two potential techniques to deal with breaking self-commitments.

Thanks for writing something useful, at least for others. Here is my take.

I may not know as much as you do, but I can tell you this -

You are trying too hard to follow Nate Soares' style of writing.

Keep a combination of cold resolve and self-compassion. Remember that your goal is to keep surging on, but burning out this early helps no one. Instead, keep a cold flame that you can consistently draw on. Give yourself space to look at yourself as a human, trying to achieve a higher standard.

This makes sense only in context of the whole Nate Soares' sequences. Try to reduce the interlinkage, it will help you write more clearly and explain things better (Rationalist's Taboo, remember?). This paragraph I have quoted is a strawman, but I wanted to show you how empty and meaningless it is, out of context. In context too, it makes no sense to me. I may be autistic, but I have no idea how to keep a combination of cold resolve and self-compassion. The Curse of Knowledge, remember? You may write stuff that makes sense to you, but not to me. We don't have the same meaning for the same words we use - 'cold resolve' for me means being Stoic. It may mean something else to you.

You should prefer to cut out anything you don't think contributes to your post.

All right, on with your breaking commitments part -

Then what actually happens is that I realize I had absolutely no intention to study machine learning in the first place. I already knew that I was going to play some video games, and the other alternatives were generated half-heartedly.

You didn't mention machine learning anywhere. Not good. I infer you intended to use machine learning as an alternative to playing video games, because that is what makes the most sense to me.

By the time you violate your own commitments, the shift to violate them has already happened somewhere earlier along the line. You’ve already made your internal decision to break the promise. Any number of metacognitive safeguards might flare up—like that nagging voice that asks, “Hey, but didn’t we just agree not to fall for temptation last time?”—but they’ll be useless.

I never break the promises I make to myself. I bend them. I bend them out of shape. But I never break them. After a night's worth of binging of porn, and me staring into the abyss/ceiling, I don't feel guilty. Because I didn't break my promise. (then again, I use a vastly idiosyncratic precommitment system to keep myself productive, or atleast not binge reading and fapping)

So yeah, the whole post you put down there goes out the window for me.

If you feel angry, or hurt, remember that you are still doing better than me. I am around your age. I am just commenting, while you are actually creating.


Also, don't ask me about my precommitment system. I never talk about it with anyone.

Hey, thanks for giving some ways to make the essay better!

Your points are good; I definitely could reduce the amount of implied/assumed knowledge I'm working with. I know about this, and I'm actively trying to do better on this front.

As for the bit about breaking promises, might it be a semantic issue / your situation being more unique? EX: I've talked to 2-3 friends about the moment of breaking promises happening, and they concurred that it seemed to be a good fit to their internal activities.