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I know this isn't the point, but I object to the quote at the beginning of your post. Maybe it's just because I'm one of "those who don’t live in that place," but what about people who are optimizing for something other than their career? Is that really such a big "exception?" Or am I taking the quote out of context, or does he think those people are optimizing for the wrong things, or what?

Some examples of alternative things one may be optimizing for when selecting where to live:

  • A significant other's career (or an area compatible with both people's careers)

  • Being near family or friends

  • Convenient access to specific hobbies

  • The weather


By what metric was his decision wrong?

If he's trying to maximize expected total wages over his career, staying in academia isn't a good way to do that. Although he'd probably be better off at a larger, more established company than at a startup.

If he's trying to maximize his career satisfaction, and he wasn't happy in academia but was excited about startups, he made a good decision. And I think that was the case here.

Some other confounding factors about his situation at the time:

  • He'd just been accepted to YCombinator, which is a guarantee of mentoring and venture capital

  • Since he already had funding, it's not like he was dumping his life savings into a startup expecting a return

  • He has an open invitation to come back to his PHD program whenever he wants

If you still really want to blame someone for his decision, I think Paul Graham had a much bigger impact on him than anyone associated with LessWrong did.


Here's the program he went to, which did happen exactly once. It was a precursor to the much shorter CFAR workshops:

That said, as his friend I think the situation is a lot less sinister than it's been made out to sound here. He didn't quit to go to the program, he quit a year or so afterwards to found a startup. He wasn't all that excited about his PHD program and he was really excited about startups, so he quit and founded a startup with some friends.



Those are my stats after my most recent meet though, about 2 years in. My first meet 6 months in was 180/95/230 @ 123. It's sad how much progress slows down :(


It's no better in the art department. In fact it's worse because there are fewer career paths out of the industry.

It works out for some people, but you have to be willing to accept relatively low pay and work a TON at the expense of pretty much every other part of your life - exercise, social time, proper sleep, hobbies, meals away from your desk...

I was a programmer in the game industry for 3.5 years and quit just over a year ago. It was exciting, but it wasn't worth it. I'm much happier now. Let me know if you have questions about my experience.


More anecdotal support: I've experienced the same things. For me, it's helped establish and reinforce a growth mindset. Fitness is an area where with consistent effort, you can really see drastic and measurable improvements in a relatively short time.

In 3 months I went from thinking I was a person who "couldn't run" to being able to run 5k nonstop. In 6 months I went from thinking I was a person who "couldn't squat" to competing in a powerlifting meet. This feels awesome and makes me feel like I can achieve anything if I set my mind to it.

(210/115/255 @ 132, female) :)


You sit back less in a high bar squat, but you do sit back. Personally when I was first learning to squat I was learning high bar and I wasn't sitting back enough. I've seen this in other beginners, too. It sounds like our anecdotal experiences don't match up and neither one of us has much more to go on, so we probably just won't agree. That's fine.

Personally, I'm all for WL shoes. I have some and I love them. But I also think it's important not to scare people away from trying the sport. If they think they need $100 specialty shoes to get started, they probably won't bother. Putting your heels on a plate or board is great to try it out but I'll admit it makes me cringe a little thinking about how unstable that must be. It's probably fine for someone just starting out with low weight though.

PS - In case it wasn't clear, I really like your post. I am nitpicking over minor quibbles here, but your main points are great. Thanks for writing it.


That's exactly the point I'm disagreeing with - It doesn't match my experiences teaching and watching beginner lifters. Can you elaborate on your evidence?

I admittedly don't have as much experience with beginners learning to high bar squat, and high bar definitely takes more ankle flexibility than low bar. But based on what I've seen, it's hard to believe it's that common a problem even for high bar.

What makes me skeptical is that I have seen many beginners (including myself at one point) believe that they needed more ankle flexibility to squat properly, but actually the problem was that they weren't sitting back enough, like on the left here:

That applies more to low bar squats than high bar squats, but it's a common problem for both.

Speaking of which! I don't have strong feeling either way, but you are very convinced that high bar squatting will cause fewer injuries than low bar squatting. I'd love to hear more about your evidence for that, as well. It seems plausible to me based on the mechanics of the movement but I don't know if it's actually true, and how big the difference in injury rate is if there is one.

If you're going to assert that beginners should high bar squat, and that you need $100 shoes to high bar squat properly, you'd better be pretty sure that high bar squats are actually significantly safer than low bar squats. If the difference is small, most beginners are better off saving their $100 and low bar squatting instead.


I can report back about the first ~4 months of my experience lifting weights, doing the Starting Strength program. I'm female though, so my experience was probably very different from a male's.

Basically, I saw huge strength gains but little to no change in appearance. I did have an awesome time doing it, and have kept it up long-term. After 2.5 years of training and slowly gaining 10lbs (on purpose), I now see small changes in my appearance but nothing major: If I'm in a tank top my arms and shoulders look more muscular that most women, and my hamstrings bulge out a little. In normal clothes I really don't look very different.

In short - ladies: if you're worried about accidentally getting too big by lifting weights, stop worrying. It won't happen unless you're trying to get big, and even then it'll be slow and difficult. If you think you might like lifting, go try it. I wish I'd started earlier.


Starting Strength includes power cleans, and they can count as an upper pull. Chin-ups are great to add too. If you're not comfortable doing power cleans, rows are a great alternative.

As for the rep scheme, I wouldn't worry about it. 4x4 isn't really much different from 3x5. It probably wouldn't hurt anything to do Starting Strength with 4x4 instead though, if you want to try it.

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