May 12, 2011
It doesn’t matter what ideas are conveyed on Less Wrong, or in LW meetings -- the subset that matters is what group members resolved to do. Discussion of these 'resolves', and people's experience doing them, is useful in creating an expectation that people level up their skills.
Intelligent discussion of ideas is always refreshing. But translating that into action is more difficult.
Our learned reflexes are deep. They need to be overridden. How? Practice.
One woman I taught in India, we’ll call her Girija, was 35 years old, extremely intelligent and really wanted to change her life but had incredibly low levels of self-confidence. Every time we met Girija, we’d have a really sharp discussion, followed by her pouring her heart out to us. It was the same every time, and though we enjoyed the visits, and the food she would feed us, she never seemed to be getting anywhere.
If she really wanted to fundamentally change her life, our weekly meetings weren’t enough. (Similarly, weekly meetups are a good start, but if you really want to be learning rationality you should be practicing every day.)
We felt that if Girija spent some time every day with her 9 year old daughter and live-in boyfriend, reading the scriptures together, they would be happier. We explained this to her frequently, and she said she would start -- but she never did it.
One week, through cleverly calling Girija and chatting for 10 minutes every day, we got her to do it. After the week was over, we asked her how it went.
“You know, it was really good,” she said. “Sandeep and I have been getting along a lot better this week because we did that.”
It was like a light had turned on in her head. Because we followed up, she did it, and was far more motivated to do more things afterwards.
Let me give two simple examples of goal, project, and follow-up.
I came up with these in about five minutes. Having spent more time in the community than me, you will all be able to generate more and better possibilities.
Some points about Projects:
Finally, a really 'low-cost' way to make a project and follow up. Right before the conclusion of a Less Wrong group, give everyone a slip of paper and ask them to write down one thing they are going to do differently next week as a result of the discussion. For two minutes (total) at the beginning of the next meeting, let people tell what they did.
Some notes and warnings:
Doing this in a fraternalistic manner, not a paternalistic manner, will be a key to success. Community agreement that We Should Do This is important before launching a Project.
Beware of the following tradeoff:
I will discuss this more later, along with possible solutions. Latter-day Saints, with a large emphasis on doing things, have high levels of commitment; however, there are definitely people who would come to church more if they were expected to do less.
Please post any ideas you have for Projects in the comments.
 Even subtracting the religious element, common goals reduce conflict.
 Here are some keys to following up that I learned. In two years, I probably applied this on about 600 people:
 Coming from my experience as a Latter-day Saint missionary, my personal examples are all fairly paternalistic. With tweaks, they can all be made fraternalistic. The sentiment has been expressed that “I don’t like people telling me what to do”; this will avoid that pitfall.
 I say 'far slower' based on my missionary experience. When people were dedicated to specific projects, they seemed to improve a lot faster.