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Answer by Darmani80

I went from being at a normal level of hard-working (for a high schooler under the college admissions pressure-cooker) to what most would consider an insane level.

The first trigger was going to a summer program after my junior year where I met people like @jsteinhardt who were much smarter and more accomplished than me. That cued a senior year of learning advanced math very quickly to try to catch up.

Then I didn't get into my college of choice and got a giant chip on my shoulder. I constantly felt I had to be accomplishing more, and merely outdoing my peers at the school I did wind up going to wasn't enough. Every semester, I'd say to myself "The me of this semester is going to make the me of last semester look like a slacker."

That was not a sustainable source of pressure because, in a sense, I won, and my bio now reads like the kind I used to envy. I still work very hard, but I only have the positive desire to achieve, rather than the negative desire to escape a feeling of mediocrity.

In high school, I played hours of video games every week. That's unimaginable to me now.

My freshman year, I spent most of the day every Saturday hanging out with board game club. Now that seems insanely decadent.


In Chinese, the words for "to let someone do something" and "to make someone do something" are the same, 让 (ràng). My partner often makes this confusion. This one it did not get even after several promptings, up until I asked about the specific word.

Then I asked why both a Swede and a Dane I know say "increased with 20%" instead of "increased by 20%." It guessed that it had something to do with prepositions, but did not volunteer the preposition in question. (Google Translate answered this; "increased by 20%" translates to "ökade med 20%," and "med" commonly translates to "with.")

But then I made up a story based on my favorite cognate*, and it nailed it.

So, 2/4.

* Yes, this is a true cognate. The German word "Gift" meaning "poison" allegedly descends from euphemistic uses of the English meaning of "gift" 

More discussion here: https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/gW34iJsyXKHLYptby/ai-capabilities-vs-ai-products

You're probably safe so long as you restrict distribution to the minimum group with an interest. There is conditional  privilege if the sender has a shared interest with the recipient. It can be lost through overpublication, malice, or reliance on rumors.

A possible solution against libel is to provide an unspecific accusation, something like "I say that X is seriously a bad person and should be avoided, but I refuse to provide any more details; you have to either trust my judgment, or take the risk


FYI, this doesn't actually work. https://www.virginiadefamationlawyer.com/implied-undisclosed-facts-as-basis-for-defamation-claim/


It does not take luck to find someone who can help you stare into the abyss. Anyone can do it. 

It's pretty simple: Get a life coach.

That is, helping people identify, face, and reason through difficult decisions is a core part of what life coaches do. And about all the questions that Ben cobbled together at the end (maybe not "best argument for" — I don't like that one) can be found in a single place: coaching training. All are commonly used by coaches in routine work.

And there are a lot more tools than the handful than the ones Ben found. These questions are examples of a handful of techniques: eliciting alternatives, countering short-term emotion and status-quo bias, checking congruence with dentity. (Many of these have catchy names like "visioning" or less-catchy names like "identity coaching," but I can't find my coach manual right now which has them listed.)

* Noticing flinching or discongruent emotions ("I heard your voice slow when you mentioned your partner, and I'm wondering if there's something behind it")

* Finding unaddressed issues ("Tell me about your last hour. What caused you stress?")

* Helping you elicit and rank your values, and then check the congruence of each choice with your values
* Helping you access your intuition ("Close your eyes and breathe. Now, one day you wake up and everything's changed / put yourself into the shoes of yourself in 10 years and tell me the first thing you see ")

* Many techniques to address negative emotions around such a decision ("If you abandon this path, what does it mean about you? Now suppose a friend did it; what would you think about them?")

* Many techniques to actually make the decision ("If you made this change, what could go wrong? Now, let's take the first thing you said. Tell me 3 ways you could get more information about how likely that is to happen?")

This also implies that, if you want to be able to do it to yourself, you can pick up a coaching book ("Co-Active Coaching" is my favorite, but I've also heard recommended "The Coaching Habit") and try it, although I think it takes a lot of practice doing it on others before you can reliably turn it inward, as it is quite difficult to simultaneously focus on the concrete problem (what the coachee does) and on evaluating and guiding the thinking and feeling (what the coach does).

There have been a number of posts like this about questions to help guide rationalists through tough decisions or emotions. I think the rationality community has a lot to learn from coaching, which in some ways is all about helping people elevate their rationality to solve problems in their own life. I gave a talk on it in 2016; maybe I should write something on it.

Context: I completed coach training in 2017. The vast majority of my work is no longer in "pure" life coaching, but the skills influence me in daily life.


Quote for you summarizing this post:

“A person's success in life can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have.”

— Tim Ferriss

This post culminates years of thinking which formed a dramatic shift in my worldview. It is now a big part of my life and business philosophy, and I've showed it to friends many times when explaining my thinking. It's influenced me to attempt my own bike repair, patch my own clothes, and write web-crawlers to avoid paying for expensive API access. (The latter was a bust.)

I think this post highlights using rationality to analyze daily life in a manner much deeper than you can find outside of LessWrong. It's in the spirit of the 2012 post "Rational Toothpaste: A Case Study," except targeting a much more significant domain. It counters a productivity meme (outsource everything!) common in this community. It showcases economic concepts such as the value of information.

One thing that's shifted since I wrote this: When I went full-time on my business, I had thought that I would spend significant time learning how to run a server out of my closet to power my business, just like startups did 20 years ago. But it turned out that I had too many other things to study around that time, and I discovered that serverless can run most websites for dollars a month. Still a fan of self-hosting; Dan Luu has written that the inability to run servers is a sign of a disorganized company.

I think some of the specific examples are slightly inaccurate. There was some discussion in the comments about the real reason for the difference between canned and homemade tomato sauce. An attorney tells me my understanding of products liability is too simplistic. I'm less confident that a cleaner would have a high probability of cleaning an area you want them to ignore if you told them and they understood; the problem is that they usually have little communication with the host, and many don't speak English. (Also, I wish they'd stop "organizing" my desk and bathroom counter.) I think I shoehorned in that "avocado toast" analogy too hard. Outside of that, I can't identify any other examples that I have questions about. Both the overall analysis and the scores of individuals examples are in good shape.

Rationalists are known to get their hands dirty with knowledge . I remember when I saw two friends posting on Facebook their opinions of the California ballot: the rationalist tried to reason through their effects and looked at primary sources and concrete predictions, while the non-rationalist just looked at who endorsed what. I'd like to see us become known for getting our hands dirty quite literally as well.

When will you send out the link for tomorrow?

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