A common way people block progress is by thinking the stuff they could do successfully to make progress is too small. So they keep trying to do stuff they think will help more, which is too hard, so they fail at it. So they get failure instead of small progress. This overreaching gets them stuck.
It's important to only care much about a small number of people. It's waaaaaay too stressful and time consuming to do more.
Don't get dragged into a bunch of people's drama. Don't get very entangled in parochial relationships. Stick to really great people or limited interaction.
Try to put life in perspective. There are big things at stake such as spreading TCS, or learning to handle your own life way better. Getting drawn into other unimportant people's parochial issues doesn't matter to this. It's a big distraction.
Try to think about what you'll still care about in a year. What is just temporary and will be forgotten, vs. what matters in bigger way.
The latest notifications on Facebook aren't important. They're parochial. They are a bunch of non-intellectuals socializing. Even in groups that pretend to be intellectual and talk about e.g. politics, they aren't actually serious about truth-seeking and learning. They don't care about carefully reading books and then having organized discussions to work out the right answers. They don't put that kind of effort in. They just fuck around.
Don't get caught up in stuff that isn't going to matter a month later. Don't prioritize stuff because it's new.
Don't feel forced to participate, now, just because the other people won't even care about their own conversation two days later, so if you don't reply now you'll get ignored. That's stupid. If they don't value their own conversation in a lasting way, why should you?
people rush when they want to get stuff done fast. this causes more mistakes, so it takes longer...
having flexible preferences does not mean self-sacrifice or compromise. it means the skill of actually being able to quickly and easily change between several preferences, or having a preference that's happy with several situations.
if someone has a lot of knowledge about a topic, you shouldn't expect to persuade them to change their mind with your first arguments. you shouldn't get discouraged. even if they are mistaken, if they have put a lot of thought into something, there will be a lot of ideas to change their mind about. that won't happen right away. have patience. be persistent.
even if i told you lots of criticism, you should be strong and stand up to me – you don't understand all that stuff yet, and have to learn in your own way, working from your current life (starting point).
i may have a point, but u can't drop all your ongoing projects to do nothing but find out my points immediately. that's fine.
take tips and criticism as useful information to use for your benefit, not pressure to somehow magically change instantly or learn faster than you know how to learn.
interpret everything as disagreements. if the other person is wrong, ignorant, stupid, sinful, "crazy", disobedient, stubborn, "not listening", or just plain disagrees ... that's all disagreement.
does that mean they have a wise opinion? no.
disagreement means the way forward is rational problem solving. it means the issue can be resolved through knowledge creation. it means progress is available via critical discussion, imaginative conjecture, and optimistically trying.
Try to do the most important things first. Don't assume you'll have time later. Don't put them off.
Don't take your current list of 20 things to do and think "I will do all of these, the only question is what order". As you go along, you'll be adding things to the list, forgetting things, changing. Do the best ones first so it's the lesser ones that get forgotten.
Whatever activities you do, it's going to lead to more. Wherever you put your attention, you can expect to create more interest there. You'll create more preferences about what you focus on. You'll often come up with more activities to pursue your interests further. You want this to be happening with the best stuff, not the least important stuff.
And whichever people you spend time with, you'll create more interest in them, shared activities, preferences related to them, etc. So spend time around the best people!
Methods of thinking and reasoning (philosophy) should be prioritized before other stuff because they're needed to do every other field well.
People are fallible. They make mistakes. Problems are inevitable. This applies to every field or activity. It applies to astronomy, being a car mechanic, architecture, biology, law, medicine, art, cooking, playing games, and managing money.
So working on methods of correcting mistakes and solving problems should be a top priority. Those methods are called "philosophy". The important thing is to work on them, not the name.
Before doing advocacy, such as for free speech, it's important to find out what free speech is, whether it's a good idea, how important it is, why some people disagree with it, and so on. And all this should be exposed to tons of criticism including public debate. Otherwise it's irresponsible to be advocating something one doesn't know much about. It's really important to find out the right thing to advocate before doing advocacy. Really high standards are needed before one shifts one's focus away from learning to doing.
Lulie said to me, "It's better to give at least one argument, not just state a conclusion." My thoughts:
i disagree. stating the conclusion is frequently better. to start with, you might agree with me. you might already know the argument i could have given. writing it out could be a waste of time. if you want more about a topic, you can ask. ask me why i think that conclusion. i'll give more arguments if asked.
and if you ask, you can put effort into asking and then i'll reply more often. if you say "why?" that's low effort. "why?" doesn't give me new information about what to tell you compared to beforehand. if you really want an answer, say some of your own thinking on the subject – put new information for me into your question/request.
knowing my conclusion, without my arguments, is useful. it lets you know my positions more. it may come up again later. you may later relate it to something else i say (e.g. seeing how they fit together, or seeing a contradiction). you may start thinking up arguments for it yourself – perhaps a month later.
not everything i say is worth arguing over right away. some is good for you to know a little about, but not more. it's not a priority, or arguing about it would be hard for some reason.
people make mistakes. problems come up. this is ok. it's not a bad thing. it shouldn't be a scary, threatening fact.
problem solving is a nice part of life. figuring out solutions is fun. correcting mistakes is a good activity. people can make progress and life can be wonderful.
sometimes people get stuck. sometimes in a big way, sometimes in little temporary ways. sometimes their progress is halted, delayed, detoured, on-and-off, or some is undone.
sometimes stuff goes wrong with handling mistakes, solving problems, learning, etc
that's when people get sad, mad, frustrated, stressed, etc. it's when things are going badly like this, when their problem solving progress gets stuck.
People often know 20% of why something is bad. Then they say they already know it's bad and don't want to listen to more. They think they're done and prevent learning the rest. Premature agreement is a common way of shutting down criticism.
Helping someone means doing things they want right now.
What about doing what you think is best for someone? Either they agree it's best for them right now. Then it's help. Or they disagree with it. Then you're going against what they want, so that isn't help.
If you hope they'll thank you later you are not helping their current self, the person who exists right now. You're thwarting them to try to help an imaginary person you hope they'll change into in the future. That's not nice.
If you think something is for the greater or longterm good, persuade them. If they disagree, and you proceed anyway, you're acting against their judgement of their interests. That's working against them, not helping.
If you're going to help someone, don't help the poor, the needy, the unhappy, the incompetent, the weak, the victims of the world.
Help the strong, the best, the virtuous. Help those who don't need your help.
Why? Because they matter more. Their lives matter more. They are more effective, they make more of a difference in the world, and they are nicer to interact with.
People who keep creating their own problems, and making a mess of their life, will waste your help.
People who are pretty good at life will use help to make things even better. It'll make a positive difference.
Do you want to see more great men exist, or do you want a few people to be slightly less wretched? If you'd like a world with more Ayn Rands and Karl Poppers, then focus your help on people with that kind of potential.
Help trickles down, anyway. Help one great man and it'll do more for the masses than a dozen soup kitchens. He'll help several people just a little below him (without even trying, just because they get to interact with him, read his ideas, buy his products, or something). And they'll help some people a little below them (from chatting with their friends, say). And they'll help some people a little below them, and so on.
Never self-sacrifice. Say "no" to people. Be selfish. Do what you want. Have a self.
When trying to write short sentences, don't start with "if". Then you end up with two parts because "If X." is not a complete sentence. So you write a two part sentence like, "If X, then Y." (even if the "then" is implicit).
My tip: use "suppose" instead of "if". Write "Suppose X. Then Y." Now you're saying something similar, but with the parts nicely split into sentences.
(Did you like this? Click for a list of all the essays.)
Acknowledgments: some ideas presented are modified from, or inspired by, ideas from Karl Popper, Ayn Rand, David Deutsch and William Godwin. Thank you!