Hi, I'm Olli Payne. I first encountered Leverage in person during the summer of 2018 and worked at Paradigm from August 2019 through April 2020.
I moved to the Bay from NYC in April 2018, after hearing about communities there (EA, Rationality, Leverage, Futurism, etc) that are focused on thinking long-term and having a large positive impact, something that resonated with me and my goals. After attending several EA meetups, I went to a few EA Global afterparties, including one at Leverage's Lake Merritt apartment.
I'd already started to hang out with Leverage employees who I'd met at the afterparty when I requested to be invited to a Paradigm workshop. I attended the workshop in June of 2018 and after finding the tools incredibly useful, I began to pursue a job at Leverage.
During the year before I was hired at Paradigm, I made many friends with employees of both Paradigm and Leverage. We went bouldering, saw movies, played video games, tried to perfect the baking of pies... I'm very happy to say that I'm still close with many of these friends.
This was my take-away from being around Leverage 1.0:
The organization and its members did have the stated goal of "world-saving," but that phrase was used within the group's culture as an intentionally-campy blanket term for world improvement, since it was known and accepted within the ecosystem of projects that no two people completely agreed on how that should be done, and everyone was there to figure it out together. It was a complex group effort, NOT a one-minded initiative, and I enjoyed being around people who were very intellectually diverse but had the same big-picture desire to see a much better world than exists today. This is an ambitious and tough environment to exist in, and it's challenging to avoid personal conflict that can lead to interpersonal misconduct when as much diversity is present in a group with such high-stakes goals. I understand that people were negatively affected by this. But call it what it is.
In 2019, I was (finally) hired at Paradigm as a trainer. This was at the beginning of the Leverage 2.0 era. Paradigm's main focus was to make the tools more accessible to a wider audience. Because I thought the tools were great, and after becoming familiar with the issues that adjacent communities had with the level of transparency around them, I was excited to help with that goal. While I was employed at Paradigm, I was never told that I had to participate in training. I also streamed on Twitch with 1.5k followers my first few months employed there. My content included gaming as well as talking about self-improvement and mental exercises like Focusing. Co-workers watched my stream and no one asked or told me to stop.
I see great potential in the tools, and I'm confident that they will be more than useful in the self-improvement journeys of those looking to fix critical problems in the world.
I'll also add that I don't normally share personal information online, especially in public forums like this, but I'm making an exception here because it adds some perspective:
Today, I live in Louisville, KY with my boyfriend who had never even heard of LessWrong before I showed him this post. I occasionally do bodywork with him, and he'd actually already experienced it at a workshop during his Undergrad program for Opera & Voice at WKU before we even met. We have 2 cats, our own condo, and too many jalapenos growing in our garden to know what to do with. I run a Branding and Design studio focused on helping impactful projects succeed in the memetic space - feel free to reach out, I'm excited to work with anyone whose goals are aligned with my studio's.
Lastly, I'd like to mention that I'm grateful to Leverage. After my time at Paradigm ended they supplied me with the work and contacts that got my studio off the ground. I apply much of what I learned from Leverage 1.0 and Paradigm to develop the frameworks and theories that I use on a daily basis to help cool people and projects succeed.