A nice email, and good questions -
your blog has helped me really transform my life in a matter of a week or so. I've never had so mcuh motivation, to do even simple things like clean up my workspace. it only seems to be getting better from here and it really is because of you. every morning i read your blog and get fresh insight into myself.
I've started getting books you've recommended, and so far so good. It would be great if you could suggust some more for me, particulary about getting the motivation to take a risk.
I'm having trouble making myself have passion for what i love, although everyday it seems to be getting a small bit easier.
I have started to track my time, and so far even the fact that I'm doing it gets me more motivated knowing i cam keep up a system.
Thanks for the kind words. It'd be great if I could suggest some books on taking a risk?
Well, okay, for doing bigger projects read Getting Things Done by David Allen. That's probably the most important one. There's books that are more specific to whatever, but that's got a very solid general mix of how to break projects into things, get on top of everything, etc, etc, etc. If you're looking to do any kind of selling or anything where you face personal rejection, I'd recommend Brian Tracy's "The Psychology of Selling" audio which has some excellent insights.
But let's step back a minute, shall we? "It would be great if you could suggust some more for me, particulary about getting the motivation to take a risk."
There's no real risk to trying a high upside no downside endeavor.
I emailed Steve Jobs once. No reply. I emailed Larry Ellison once. No reply.
I admire both those guys a lot. So I sat and put together an email, took about 15 minutes of thinking what I want to put down, and I sent it.
What'd I lose really? Nothin'. Nothing at all.
So why don't I make a habit of writing letters to people I respect and do it all the time?
...hell, I don't know.
Gandhi used to that, even when he was a nobody. I read once that he frequently wrote 60+ letters per day. He wrote to anyone and everyone significant.
I could do that. Why don't I make a list of like 1,000 people I really admire, and write to 3 of them a day? I bet I'd connect with only a small fraction of them, but it'd be a lot.
But I don't. Dunno why.
There's tons of web services that offer free or near-free technology. You could start a blog for free, you could buy a cheap camera and start trying to build a photography portfolio almost for free, you could start a newsletter for free, you could open accounts at popular discussion sites for free and start contributing, you can get a free email account and reach out to people you admire, you could volunteer for civic organizations that are doing things you admire, you could start organizing some kind of local cultural event, you could put up a basic webpage offering some sort of consulting at some bargain rate with an explanation of why it's so cheap and then go hustle to get that work, you could volunteer to become a tester of some cool new technology that's understaffed, you could...
You could do a lot of things. None of those have any real risk, except of wasting your time. But I bet you waste a hell of a lot of time doing stuff you know is pointless and know won't bring you any satisfaction and know won't advance you closer to the things are meaningful...
I don't know, man. I wish I could tell you. I still grapple with it. You want recommendations? Alright, check out Getting Things Done and the Psychology of Selling. Also, Derek Sivers's book reviews are all excellent, that's probably a good place to start if you're looking for business/social psychology/motivation/execution books.
But let's be real clear here. The risk? There's no risk. It's just... it's... no, I don't know, sorry. I wish I could tell you. The fact is, there's tons of projects that have basically no risk. In fact, shifting your time from watching random TV to trying to do something creative is almost a guaranteed win, because you would have just avoided having your mind rotted for however long. Even if you get no results, just attempting to do anything meaningful pays higher dividends than aimlessly channel surfing.
I don't know. I wish I had more answers. It's about identity or something. I don't know. I still grapple with it.
Ah, this is encouraging - "I'm having trouble making myself have passion for what i love, although everyday it seems to be getting a small bit easier."
Yes, I think that's it. Motivation is fleeting, but a general, slow trending upwards gets you there. There's no magical potion, you just kind of scrap and scratch and claw forwards, get a little better regularly, and that translates to being a lot better in not-too-long.
I'd like to be more expansive and prolific. I'm still not. But I guess you keep working at it, and eventually get there. Remember this though, at least intellectually - there's practically no risk. We all spend plenty of time with activities that give us a guaranteed zero.
Shifting that time to attempting something with a chance of zero or a chance of something fantastic is no risk. No risk. Remember that, at least intellectually. Emotionally seems to take longer unfortunately, but it's worth pursuing.
Best regards, and thanks for the kind words.
Great post that I'm still thinking about, but I tend to see EVERYTHING as having pros and cons. Yes, the pros may greatly outweigh the cons, but a con always exists: opportunity cost. You probably shouldn't consider it for something like emailing Larry Ellison, but once hours, day, or weeks are being used up out of a finite resource (the most finite we have!), then we must consider it.
Live your life, but be careful how you live it. Everything has a cost, no matter how small.
thanks for this. This post is exactly the kick I needed. It's so easy to waste your life fretting that someone won't be impressed with you when you talk to them, or try and do something. I keep forgetting that the risk of people being unimpressed is not, actually, important in any way.
Just what I needed. I am dropping a guy an email about a job.
Related to: Rationalists Should Win, Why Our Kind Can't Cooperate, Can Humanism Match Religion's Output?, Humans Are Not Automatically Strategic, Paul Graham's "Why Nerds Are Unpopular"
The "Prisoner's Dilemma" refers to a game theory problem developed in the 1950's. Two prisoners are taken and interrogated separately. If either of them confesses and betrays the other person - "defecting" - they'll receive a reduced sentence, and their partner will get a greater sentence. However, if both defect, then they'll both receive higher sentences than if neither of them confessed.
This brings the prisoner to a strange problem. The best solution individually is to defect. But if both take the individually best solution, then they'll be worst off overall. This has wide ranging implications for international relations, negotiation, politics, and many other fields.
Members of LessWrong are incredibly smart people who tend to like game theory, and debate and explore and try to understand problems like this. But, does knowing game theory actually make you more effective in real life?
I think the answer is yes, with a caveat - you need the basic social skills to implement your game theory solution. The worst-case scenario in an interrogation would be to "defect by accident" - meaning that you'd just blurt out something stupidly because you didn't think it through before speaking. This might result in you and your partner both receiving higher sentences... a very bad situation. Game theory doesn't take over until basic skill conditions are met, so that you could actually execute any plan you come up with.
I was a pretty good reader as a kid. My mom recounts me sitting in the corner reading in pre-school instead of doing whatever other pre-schoolers did. In Kindergarten, I was praised for reading more books than any other kid. Throughout the elementary school summers, I dominated the summer reading programs in all the neighboring cities.
Eventually, I started to realize that all of these books are the same. Sometime when I was 10, I started to realize every book seemed to be about some derpy kid who eventually overcame his fears and saved the world, or at least his friend group.
I had the intellectual ability to read YA and adult books at the time, but not the emotional maturity. So, I hit a standstill.
Time passes on, I get into Classics (aka: any title whose name being uttered made me sound smart). I got a Kindle and subsequently got into Indie trash, at one point reading one book per day. Then the Kindle broke and I had no clue what to do.
I went through a massive overhaul on how I thought about reading, which leads us to how I read today.