'bout a week ago, I had a great conversation with Sam Snyder. Sam is really, really, really smart. If you haven't been to his site, you should click over there and at least skim until you find something personally fascinating to you (and you will), and then you'll probably be a fan of his for life.
We covered a lot of ground talking. The first thing I made a note of was on reference points for exercise. We were talking why fitness is so enjoyable, such a good thing, but people often don't do it?
Sam said something really insightful - he said people's reference points for fitness are probably thinking about the hard part of starting, when you're getting going it, when you're not into the flow of it. When someone thinks exercise, they don't think about being engaged mind and body, feeling strong, feeling alive. They think about the beginning part where the body and bones and muscles feel creaky and it's hard to do.
I'm paraphrasing - I'm not even capturing the sentiment of it really well, it was a very sharp insight. The takeaway for me was, when thinking about exercise think about the height of enjoyable moments from it. Not the hassle, not the details, not the admin, not the pain. But the most enjoyable moments. Make that your reference point.
"Everything that goes on in the world can be reduced to cause and effect." We talked about tracing ways through cause and effect, and how you could have more predictive power if you did. Economic events, social events, wealth, and so on. We talked about some ways on how you model what was going to happen and make predictions. Fascinating stuff - Sam's playing on a really high mental level.
We talked about lots of good stuff - had a good chat on biochemistry and surgery and proteins and things like that. He's a really sharp guy. I do highly recommend Sam Snyder's site - note, there's a lot of information and references on there. I'd recommend on your first visit that you skim until you find something really valuable or fascinating to you, and I'm pretty sure you will. Great chatting with Sam, very very sharp insights.
I just spent some time reading Thomas Schelling's "Choice and Consequences" and I heartily recommend it. Here's a Google books link to the chapter I was reading, "The Intimate Contest for Self Command."
It's fascinating, and if you like LessWrong, rationality, understanding things, decision theories, figuring people and the world out - well, then I think you'd like Schelling. Actually, you'll probably be amazed with how much of his stuff you're already familiar with - he really established a heck of a lot modern thinking on game theory.
Allow me to depart from Schelling a moment, and talk of Sam Snyder. He's a very intelligent guy who has lots of intelligent thoughts. Here's a link to his website - there's massive amounts of data and references there, so I'd recommend you just skim his site if you go visit until you find something interesting. You'll probably find something interesting pretty quickly.
I got a chance to have a conversation with him a while back, and we covered immense amounts of ground. He introduced me to a concept I've been thinking about nonstop since learning it from him - reference points.
Now, he explained it very eloquently, and I'm afraid I'm going to mangle and not do justice to his explanation. But to make a long story really short, your reference points affect your motivation a lot.
I'm on a Southwest Airlines flight right now, heading from DC to San Francisco. The way food works on Southwest is they hold out a big basket full of snacks, and you take whatever you want for free. None of the snacks are healthy; it's crackers and cookies and chips.
I have to admit, I was really tempted to take a pack of Oreos. The justifications are easy to come up with: I've already paid for those Oreos, I'm coming off a long trip where I was off my diet, one small packet of Oreos doesn't really matter.
No Oreos for me, though. The huge basket was dropped on the middle seat next to me, I saw all the glistening blue packs of Oreos, and I avoided taking them. I don't always make the disciplined decision, but I make it a lot, and I'm getting better at it all the time. The trick, I've found, is to consider the aggregate long term in every decision.
Oreos are a short term play. For a period of thirty seconds or so, I will have the pleasurable biological response of eating something fabricated specifically to elicit that response. It's not about hunger or nutrition, it's about very short term pleasure. That by itself isn't so bad-- taking momentary pleasure in the joys of every day life is an excellent practice.