I made a startling discovery recently: all that video-game playing from age 8 to age 26 seems to have resulted in some permanent gains.
A few years ago, I basically swore games off. But similar to how meditation makes a person more resilient against all of life's absurdities, and how team sports instils a sense of how to cooperate and compete, it seems like the people that sought to master complex games from our generation are now able to take and build on them. The people who were mastery-oriented in playing a myriad of games seem to grasp a whole set of concepts faster and easier that are directly applicable to success today.
I had a phone call a few hours ago with one of the volunteers helping to make the GiveGetWin Tour 2015 a big success. He's already helped line up two of the dates between the coastal cities as we transit across America and I wanted to go beyond talking about Tour logistics and also make time to help him reach his goals.
His questions were a set of questions I get often: if I want to be able to work on interesting projects, with interesting people, and lots of freedom, how do I do it? How did you do it?
I could have, and eventually will, run him through the mechanics of getting to know people, how they come to trust you, how deals get struck and work gets done.
I contend thusly:
"General Orders for Sentries" is one of the finest written processes of all-time.
You can read the orders here, if you like, for the various branches of the U.S. Armed Forces --
On the surface, it's a pretty simple thing, being a sentry. "Watch this area. Tell us if anything odd happens."
The Patterns That Emerge From History
There's often quick and immediate lessons in studying a narrow part of history relevant to your field. If you're the portfolio manager of a mutual fund, you should of course know the recent history of the various asset classes. If you're a Naval Admiral, you should of course know at least the history of naval warfare down cold. If you're a hostage negotiator, you should study a variety of hostage negotiation situations and how they played out.
This is all pretty obvious stuff. And indeed, most high-level practitioners study the recent history of their field at the very least.
It takes a bit more effort to explain why you should study the history of your country and how it emerged... but it doesn't take that much energy. Understanding the American Civil War, for Americans, has some obvious value. It still effects the modern day.
This still not a very hard sell. Most people learn something about how their country came to be where it is.
EDIT: I've got enough early reviewers, thanks!
I'm 50,000 words in, but I suspect I'll need to cut/re-write about half of them in addition to writing another 20k or 30k to get the core stuff complete. Whoever signs up for this, you're signing up for going through some very rough stuff.
Why do it? You'll get max-honest writing (I tend to remove things that could be misconstrued or arguments that the emotional impact would outstrip the benefits to thinking for final versions; you'd get to see the raw stuff), you'll be able to shape a work that thousands of people are going to read, and we'll be in touch to swap ideas/thoughts.
I don't need any proofreading or grammar yet -- the questions are very high level / structural / what's clear and what isn't / what's persuasive and what isn't. So it's not painstaking editing so much as noting when things are clear and when they're not.
Email is: sebastian at sebastianmarshall.com
Briefly, some updates:
*I've got some bonuses and downloads for Gateless, some really good ones coming. The book is getting great reviews -- if you miss the blog here and haven't gotten your copy yet, go get it.
*My next book, aiming for Q2 or Q3 2015, has "crossed the threshold" where it's definitely going to happen. I'm going to engage in a little less conversation and a little more action as a general rule, but my writing practice goes well and the quality goes up. I'll be more publicly involved sooner or later; for now, I'm enjoying my intense private work cycles and quality improvements.
*Thanks for all the well-wishes, emails, and the positive reviews/feedback of Gateless. Love you guys.
Ok, without further ado --
Happy Black Friday.
Gateless is up on Amazon right now.
If you're normally not doing the consumer-thing on Black Friday, maybe go get yourself a copy to celebrate.
Feedback and questions are of course welcome. Happy holidays.
Dashed off a quick piece about learning history at LessWrong --
Crossing the History-Lessons Threshold
Comments/questions welcome there or here.
Brief update: I'm working on longer-form writing that's more focused and deep. I've finished around a dozen pieces but haven't struck the tone I want yet. I don't know when the next iteration will come, but it's going to be terrific.
I've gotten lots of inquiries as to how I'm doing -- very well, thank you. Well, that's not 100% true. It's a difficult metamorphosis. Some days, things go exceedingly well. Others, it's frustrating. I'm studying technical materials and looking to seriously improve. There's been some results that are remarkable to me, but other days it's really tough.
My average time for writing a moderate-length piece used to be maybe 30 minutes, plus or minus 20. Now I'm up around 7 hours, plus or minus three. Lots of outlining beforehand, carefully citing facts and sources, footnoting, getting deeper points, and then editing afterwards.
Sometimes it's tough, because I'm putting a lot of work in, but I'm losing that natural free-flowing tone that I was able to strike when just writing.
The potential if I can nail this style is A+ work. But right now, I'm doing C- execution at that A+ style. The building blocks are all there, but it's slightly wooden and tough still. I think some of the core readers here will really love it, but the general public won't dig it. The stuff I'm writing is coming in at the 2500 to 7000 word range per piece, but doesn't quite move fast enough. Deep-thinking-love-to-critically-analyze people will dig it, but I can do better. I want to get that musical sense, that really grand and enjoyable tone.
A few notes --
1. Kai and I co-authored a book a while back. It’s basically done. I still keep wanting to do tweaks and edits, but I’ve got to send this baby off into the world. We’ve had some great early reviewers of which I’m grateful. Now, if you'd like to be involved, here's a good opportunity --
We’d like to have 15 small samples of the book get sent to people when they sign up via email.
I’ve been trying to do this, but I’m too close to the work — I can’t tell which samples/excerpts would be most interesting and relevant to people, in the right order.
So, if you’re interested, you get an advance copy, you read it, you get any questions answered you want, you pick out 15 sections that you think are relevant, you format them into Mailchimp. Pay is $100 for it.
I'm both surprised and flattered to get a number of concerned emails wondering where I'm at. I guess that's not-too-crazy: I used to post basically daily here, and now there hasn't been a post in almost a week.
So, where am I?
The answer is, I'm looking to do an order-of-magnitude quality improvement in my writing. Putting concepts on more solid ground, making them more actionable, writing in a more service-oriented fashion, covering things from first principles and background knowledge (so someone seeing something for the first time could put it into action right away), etc.
A problem with a lot of my writing in the past was that I wrote strictly about what interested me. This turned out some good pieces, but erratically and with no scope.
This resulted in an amazing regular readership of just absolutely marvelous people here who like to put together patterns and extract general principles from history, science, business, philosophy, etc. Which has been terrific and has greatly enriched my life, and I think a lot of readers and people in the dialog here have made some amazing gains too.