Attendees: Me, A, W, S, C, J


As a follow up to last week, where I brought up the fact I am planning to change careers, I showed an example of the kind of job I would like to have: a position as a decision analyst at the Pentagon. (I am following the Career Path of ‘Improve Institutional Decision-Making’ as per 80,000hrs). I have sent emails to college advisors and am waiting on responses.

‘A’ recommended very highly that I emphasize networking. I am in the process of using Linkdin for this. As a spitball, he also suggested ‘doing research on people’ and ‘start doing stuff’. He doesn’t have any specific ideas, but it might be worth thinking about

‘W’ recommended I apply to work in the Census. Since they perform a background check, this will let me know if there are any flags on my record (I have troubled family members).


A had a bad experience with an agency in his career, and has resolved to not interact with them again. He will have to adjust his long-term career goals, but has a solid plan of action and no new difficulties. He is trying to write a nonfiction book, and is currently resolved to ‘just write’. We’ll touch base with him again in a few weeks to see if he might need a more specific strategy.


W is struggling with an ex of his who is posting on twitter in such a way that W knows she is having relationship problems. He is tempted to reach out and show concern (they are on friendly terms), but is convinced that it is a bad idea, and wants our feedback.

I asked for clarification on why he thinks it is bad idea, and he cited that his map/model of her is somewhat outdated, and might be mis-reading. Also, their relationship is mostly a passive one, which doesn’t provide precedent for this.

A noticed that when we affirm W’s intuitions, he doesn’t seem to fully like that answer. A asked why. W was silent for a while, and said “I want to help”. He doesn’t like that reaching out to help would likely result in drama/a worse situation. After talking a bit more about it, he verbalized that he also gets a certain level of satisfaction from understanding her, and having deduced that she is probably having relationship problems. He considers this to be an “impure” motivation, that may end up poisoning the well if acted upon. So instead of proving himself to her, he is bringing it up to us so he can get that affirmation from a healthier place. He said this was very uncomfortable to admit, but is glad he is bringing it out.


She has a friend in another country who is a survivor of an abusive relationship. She needs professional help, and is currently using C as her emotional outlet. C is trying to think of a way to get her the professional help she needs, because C can’t keep being that for her friend. The general consensus of the Dojo was that being in another country actually opens up a lot more options, due to laxer laws. However, these would almost certainly be online.


Coming back around to A, he expressed frustration with what happens when he rejects anxiety as a worldview. What he means is that there are lots of people who live as if the anxiety they feel is reality, which it is not. He’s not even talking about attacking their worldview, but simply not participating. S talked about coworkers who insist that he be as anxious as they are, and A affirmed that’s what he is also talking about. He used another real life example about a time when there was a tornado watch (the mildest of tornado warnings), and people around him were anxious whenever there was an uptick in wind or rain, and insisted that they were justified in being worried, despite the probability of a tornado still being negligible.

Hypothetical Anxious Person: “You are not validating my feelings!”

A: “Correct!”


C brought up a personal bias she is struggling with. She is worried that her bias against competition, and for cooperation, might cause her to overlook opportunities where competition is more effective. She couldn’t think of a specific concrete example. W pointed out that this is a statistically common bias (this is, in fact, why competitions are so popular in media, because it is novel).

She followed up by asking what his opinion is on when competition is useful. I asked her to Steelman competition, to see where she is at in dealing with this, and she cited the economics of innovation that “people talk about”.

W compares it to diversity, which is great for innovation, and yet makes people uncomfortable. If you want somebody to do really well, competition is what you want. If you want to create greater equanimity, then cooperation is the way to go.

A says that the reality might be that competition is inevitable. In fact, cooperation is universally a type of strategy for competing. The entire human race has cooperated to dominate the planet, out-competing all other species. In order for a system to stay in balance, there has to be negative feedback.

W mentions how in game theory, the advantage of competition scales with how cooperative the system is (ala Prisoner’s Dilemma). He also said that the most immediate failure mode of C’s bias is that it could cause her to pass up opportunities to gain advantages in life, which she affirmed has been a problem. W continued by saying that if she gains an advantage, she then becomes the person who gets to distribute it according to her values.

J asked under what circumstances, and what stakes, her bias gets engaged. He asked about competitive board games, and she says that she does prefer cooperative board games, but will play competitive ones (and not really care about winning).

A said that Americans are confused about play and competition. He posits that they are mutually-exclusive, and that board games are a gray-area exception where we are competing, but winning isn’t that big of a deal, and therefore usually qualifies as play. The general consensus was the competition is primarily useful when there has to be a winner/loser, or a single person/idea needs to gain an advantage. Admittedly, it seems to all of us that cooperation does tend to be the best strategy, and encouraged C to simply keep the usefulness of competition in mind. It is unlikely that it will cause problems beyond self-deprivation of opportunity, which she thinks she will have an easier time working on now.


Losers of ‘The Game’* for the week: J

*’The Game’ is a fun culture thing we have established in the group. It’s a variation of ‘The Game’, where you lose the moment you realize you are playing. In our variation, you lose the game if, at any point, you say something that can be construed to imply that you are a cannibal.


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