Apricus - Meta-Discussion of my Emotions and Diagnosing My Difficulty Engaging with FI Long-term

Topic Summary: Since November 2021, I have been reading CF/FI content but have not been engaging in it. I took an abrupt and undefined/indefinite break where I did not state I was taking a break, and I did not even know I was taking a break until I did. I did it out of emotions like guilt, shame, and fear, rather than a conscious, planned decision, and even my decision to come back was done based on a courageous impulse/whim rather than based on planning. I just felt that I needed to do something to address this or I would continue to make similar mistakes for the rest of my life and feel all these negative emotions unnecessarily when I could just be more productive and fulfilled instead. However, to get there, I might have to have some emotionally difficult discussions, do self-reflection, learn to understand myself and CF ideas better. I also need to lower my standards for short-term success until I can take sustainable steps to build towards long-term success, so that I don’t burn out and give up.

Goal: Write out details on why I think I’ve taken two long breaks from FI and my emotional problems and irrationalities when dealing with the FI community. Discuss how I can take steps to be better and avoid making the same mistakes in the future. Implement these steps as small, achievable projects and make the steps smaller or bigger based on how sustainable they are. Start as small as I can where I can follow through and see progress and success.

CF relevance: Self-improvement, learning, honesty, figuring out how to change emotions through rational discussion and thinking.

Do you want unbounded criticism? (A criticism is a reason that an idea decisively fails at a goal. Criticism can be about anything relevant to goal success, including methods, meta, context or tangents. If you think a line of discussion isn’t worth focusing attention on, that is a disagreement with the person who posted it, which can be discussed.)
Yes, although I think it will be emotionally hard for me. I don’t want to avoid the emotionally difficult discussions. I apologize in advance if I react poorly to honest feedback from other posters.

I want you all to know that I also don’t blame anyone else for my quitting/taking a long break from the forum. The difficult questions that people asked of me held me to a high standard and I failed to meet it and felt bad about that failure. They were also questions I was afraid to ask myself and afraid to face, so avoiding them was easier than addressing them, even though avoiding them was only self-sabotaging.

I will do my best to bring up my emotional reactions as soon as I become aware of them so that people who invest time and energy replying in this thread can make their decisions based on as honest a self-awareness as I can communicate with them, along with their own judgment of my level of tilt/emotion/frustration etc. based on how I type and respond. I’m also very open to hearing ideas people have for areas I need to improve at as a person, and I will do my best to list them out and prioritize them, and not pressure myself to fix all of them at once but instead take it slow and sustainably so that I can work on the most important issues first and be patient and persistent about progressing on them.

I’m not super clear on timeline so these dates are not accurate to the day.

I remember that I roughly first came across David Deutsch’s philosophy ideas on August 25, 2019 from his first podcast with Sam Harris. That got me super interested and I dove deep into his ideas, listening to a lot of his podcasts, finding old blog posts, and so on. By about September 9th that led me to discover curi.us and I joined the FI discord from there. I think Justin was the first person I met and chatted extensively with that day, although I think I introduced myself to curi and a few others that first day as well. I liked that I was able to ask questions about DD’s ideas and people answered them in a simple, understandable way. I was 23 years old at this time.

I don’t remember when I first took a long break from FI but I do remember roughly how it happened because it was an emotional series of events for me. I had made promises to another FI member and did not keep them, and I felt bad about failing to keep them and left the Discord server. This seems to be a pattern, and I’m concerned that I may have a habit of subconsciously making promises I won’t keep, breaking them, and then using that as an excuse to declare myself a failure and double-down on giving up entirely instead of trying to find a way to succeed.

More specifics on the incident from what I remember (I don’t have access to the Discord logs and my memory is fallible so I might be wrong about some of the details, but I will do my best not to be biased to myself and to be accurate about what happened): I disagreed with something an FI member had said, and another FI member held me accountable to it and called me out, explaining how I was wrong. He asked if I was willing to concede what I said, and I said I was busy with a League tournament but would get back to him. He followed up with me, and I remember at one point I was no longer busy with the League tournament and could have done the work I promised to do at that point, but I didn’t, and I ended up leaving the Discord instead. So I think I was afraid or unwilling to concede and just admit I was wrong, or afraid to do the work to analyze the text and see that I was wrong and then admit it. I also ended up feeling guilty about my dishonesty about how busy I was since I did not readily admit a few days later that the League tournament was over and I was no longer busy. I let the implication stand that I was still busy instead of correcting the facts once they had changed. I also felt bad for breaking my promise to get back to the FI member once I was no longer busy.

Also looking back, the League tournament was no excuse. I could have made the time to spend 20-30 min to read the stuff and admit I was wrong. Really it just looks to me like my entire series of actions was not about truth-seeking, but about something else. Something more harmful to me, like saving face or avoiding emotional pain from finding out specifically how I was wrong.

I don’t remember how long my break was but I did rejoin at some point and apologize, and I think that’s when I started discussing here on the CR forum, as the Discord community was being phased out from what I remember.

Then in November 2021 I did the same thing again, where I made a promise to an FI member, and I broke it. I want to keep the details on this incident more vague for privacy reasons, but I basically said that I set a calendar reminder to do a thing, and then I didn’t do the thing by that date, and I felt bad, and then I just avoided logging into the CR forum to avoid having to face it. I built this huge monster in my head of all the bad things that would happen/emotions I would experience if I logged in, and they were far worse than the reality of the situation (Which I only found out when I logged in today, ~14 months later, to realize that reality was actually a relief and nobody was actually mad at me despite all the wrongs I had done and harm I had caused)

This is a pattern too. My fear and anticipation of things is often far worse than the reality of them. Another example from my past is when I would avoid checking my bank account because of a fear of how little money I had. But once I got over that and started checking it regularly, I had no fear about it, and I was able to budget better, save up more, and end up with a healthier financial life. I have to somehow learn that every time I avoid facing reality, I’m only delaying it and the negative effects will accrue and be worse later.

The other emotional moments I remember in CR were when a community member called me out for playing a videogame while I was supposed to be working, and that I’m the kind of person that is the reason why telecommuting faces resistance/pushback from businesses or other employees who have to pull the slack caused by people not working as much as they should when working from home. That was a fair criticism and I remember I did not know how to respond and it forced me to face my own moral failings and I felt really bad about myself. That post made me focus more on my work and I got better at my job, so I should go back and thank that poster for holding me accountable to a good moral standard.

I’m still working at the same organization, although my job/role is different, and I’ve gotten much better at my work. I remember the other criticisms at the time were about why I was focusing so much time on an MMO (New World), especially when I had just started a new job and new jobs take extra energy and focus to learn well, so I should be prioritizing attention to that until it’s more automated and I’m better at it. That was correct too and I was unwilling to admit or look too closely at that truth. Today I realize that I’m glad that the way my work is is that I’m expected to deliver certain results, and my team leader has said he doesn’t care how long it takes me to get those results. He’s there to support me if I need help, and if I can do fine on my own, that’s great. So I don’t feel guilty any more if I’m not working my full shift because I just try to optimize my own schedule to accomplish the results that the organization cares about. Lately I’ve been trying to do as much focused work as I can in the first 2-3 hours in the morning, with my notifications and emails turned off and work phone set to silent etc. to minimize interruptions. I’ve found that when I stay focused and disciplined, I can get a lot done like that, and I don’t often have to work the entire 10 hours in a day (I’m scheduled to work 10 hours a day, 4 days a week)

I am looking at a career switch into project management and working on doing the Google Project Management professional certificate through Coursera, and that’s partly because my job is at the federal government and they recently mandated that all federal employees go back into the office 2-3 days a week. The office is a 1.5 hour commute away and I have not learnt how to drive yet, so that could turn my in office days into 13 hour days unless I switch my schedule around and maybe try to schedule 6 hour days in office 2 days a week, or move closer to the office. However, I should have been looking into a career switch a lot longer ago because I’ve been unable to really innovate or be passionate at this job because it’s so clearly defined and static. Most of what I do does not build into transferable skills and I don’t get to be very creative in my day to day tasks. It’s kind of just a rote execution of a checklist that I’m trained to do, and occasionally I get trained on new checklists to execute.

An online League friend told me about project management and I realized that what I was doing at some of my earliest jobs in real estate was actually project management, because I was coordinating different kinds of projects like real estate development projects, or an interior decoration project for a building we we were about to finish building, and was coordinating with architects and other consultants as well as keeping my boss updated on things and connecting team members with consultants or vice versa to keep things moving forward. I was also using software to track the progress of various tasks and keep a moving estimate of how long a project would take to be finished, and I had been reading blog posts and books at the time on how to do it better. I think I enjoy jobs where I can read things to improve at my job and do it better, and my current job does not feel like one of those (I could be wrong about this)

It also made me realize that a lot of the cool ideas from FI were based on project management and great thinkers like Eli Goldratt, and I liked Eli Goldratt’s books like The Goal but never implemented them properly, so switching careers could also give me an opportunity to dive deep into those ideas and enjoy implementing them in a practical way. Ideally, I should learn to implement them in my life, but I’ve often noticed that I seem to be able to implement best when I’m doing it for a job or a project where I’m helping someone else. When I’m trying to solve my own problems, I’m much less courageous and much more anxious and get more into analysis paralysis and thinking too much and not doing enough. When I’m learning stuff to help someone else or to do my job/career better, I just implement it and see what happens and learn from it. I want to learn to treat myself better and be more courageous on my behalf, and to treat my problems and issues as worth addressing as persistently as I sometimes help others. I think the other thing is it’s more emotionally painful to admit my own problems and shortcomings and flaws, which is a necessary first step to working on them in an honest and effective way.

This online League friend works at a tech company and said he could get me a job as a junior project manager there if I complete this certificate, and he also said that based on what he knows about me, he thinks my interests and personality are a good fit for project management in general, since I seem to like connecting with people and helping people, and I also seem to like learning stuff and implementing new ideas/methods of managing projects and solving problems. He lives in Seattle but he’s moving to Vancouver this week so I will be meeting him soon. I do feel lucky that I met him through a videogame and that he’s helping me improve my life and career. My only hesitation/trepidation is a kind of imposter syndrome thing where I don’t want to get a job because of nepotism/get a job I don’t deserve just because he works there or has influence in the organization, and that I don’t want to disappoint him/fail him. In the past I would have turned him down or run away from the situation (I ghosted a previous consultant from the real estate company when I quit because she said that she liked that I admitted my mistakes in a consultant meeting when I was giving a presentation, and that she wanted to offer me job – I felt at the time that I didn’t deserve what she was offering and I didn’t know how to turn her down, so I just ended up not calling her back after that conversation and that inaction from me still haunts me to this day)

So this time, to not make the same mistakes of the past, I’ve decided I will put significant effort into becoming capable and competent at project management so that I can actually deserve the job and do it effectively, and if I struggle at it, I will put in the work to improve as fast as I can so I can earn my place there. The downside of my low-self esteem/imposter syndrome problem in the past is that by quitting or saying no, I also deny myself the opportunity to potentially grow and improve so that I’m worthy of the thing I think I don’t deserve, and I’m also denying the other person’s autonomy because I’m assuming that I know better than they do what kind of value I bring to the table. It’s taken me time to realize that often other people have a more realistic understanding of the value I can provide at a job than I do (and this is bad and I need to change it. I remember reading some really old blog posts on curi.us where curi was confident in his ability to deliver value as a programmer and to solve a wide variety of programming problems and I want to learn to be more like that over time)

The above is kind of a tangent but hopefully adds some context to the emotional problems that I tend to have in life. I’m noticing that the mistakes I make/problems I have that hurt me in rational discussions also hurt me in real life. The patterns are the same, like that I fear failure so much sometimes that my inaction becomes a far bigger failure than if I made any proactive choice, even a bad one, and that I sabotage my own progress by trying too hard too quickly and burning out and then using that as an excuse to give up for loooong periods of time (like 3+ months), or that I get obsessed with individual people and their ideas without first choosing the best people to get obsessed with. For example, I got obsessed with Jonathan Stark’s ideas for a good while (Like 2+ months), but it would have been far better for me if I had gotten obsessed with Eli Goldratt’s ideas for that time period instead. I think curi mentioned something like this at some point, but I don’t want to mis-attribute that to him. I’m only mentioning it because I also don’t want to deny him credit for this idea, as I know it definitely didn’t come from me and I don’t deserve credit for it.

To close out, as this post is already far too long, I figure I should list out various thinkers whose ideas I’ve dug deep into in the past. I seem to have a pattern of being monomaniacal about certain people’s ideas for a few months at a time and diving super deep where I absorb a bunch of their stuff, but then I don’t implement a lot of it, although I seem to retain it over years since I can still talk about the ideas in detail 2+ years later, or find specific timestamps in videos I remember or specific blog posts etc. to reference them. (A friend also told me that I might be autistic like he is, and that made me curious. He said he was diagnosed around my age and only because he watched a documentary about it and went to a doctor because a lot of the signs applied to him)

As a kid (Age 13-14) I liked Robert Kiyosaki’s ideas. His book Rich Dad Poor Dad is what got me interested in Real Estate. Today I don’t endorse him at all and I disagree with a lot of his stuff, especially his ideas about network marketing (basically multi-level marketing).

Later on in life I got into (in no particular order except the one I can just remember them in): Simon Sinek, David Deutsch, Seth Godin (I read and enjoyed like 5+ of his books and he has so many more), Derek Sivers, David Goggins, Jocko Willink, Jordan Peterson, Elliot Temple, Ayn Rand (Not too deeply, just mainly through FI and reading Fountainhead, Atlas Shrugged, and some of her shorter stories that were recommended by curi, like Anthem which I liked, as well as some of her philosophy lectures/stuff online), and Jonathan Stark. I’d say I read a lot more books ~4 years ago, but over the last ~2 years it’s been more blog posts and podcasts than full books.

Also wanted to mention before I forget… There are many times I’ve thought something that I wanted to write on FI, and I didn’t write it, and I came to regret it and it caused this kind of (metaphorical) hole in me. A hole of like regret, and then I would think about writing it again, and then not do it, and it would get worse. Each time I considered it and chose not to do it, I would come up with new, bigger fears and worries, and I would let those fears and worries win out over my sort aspiration to just say the thing and share it and potentially benefit from getting it out there. So one of my goals is to not hold back as much and to just follow through on my impulses a bit more (even if sometimes they are bad or I make a mistake, I think I need to learn to be more concerned about missing opportunities than of making mistakes)

So I’ll start with one that I’ve wanted to write since 2020 at least but never shared because it felt weird to share, and it’ll be the closing point for this post:

I remember in the FI Discord curi wrote something like (and I wish I had the logs saved so I could avoid misquoting him, I apologize if I mess up the context or the wording, I hope I get the general idea right, just treat this as a paraphrase):

99% of people over age 25 who are not already honest will not ever choose to become honest.

And that terrified me because I was like 24 at the time, and I thought to myself, “Oh shit, I have less than a year to become honest, otherwise I’m screwed forever.”

And I remember there was an ensuing discussion and curi specified that he used the word “choose” not that they couldn’t become honest, just that they likely wouldn’t choose to be. So even though I am 27 now, I am optimistic that I can make choices everyday that help me become more honest with myself and others. One thing I am doing is I’ve set a daily goal that I will write down every lie I tell. It forces me to be more conscious about lies and so far I haven’t written any lies down, but that’s because every time I’m about to tell one, I realize I will have to write it down, and then it forces me to ask myself, “Is this lie really helpful/productive/worth telling?” and then I just don’t tell it. And sometimes it has meant I told the truth at a really awkward time when it could have hurt my relationship with someone, but so far it’s never been as bad as I imagined, and it’s only improved my relationship with people (or made people who want to be lied to just avoid interacting with me in the future, which is fine by me)

Sorry for the long break and the long post. Please don’t feel pressured to reply or help me. I will do my best to be proactive and write updates here and introspect and self-reflect. I understand that the majority of the work has to come from me, and other people can only guide me to resources or give me perspective to help me make better choices, but ultimately I can’t change for the better if I’m not willing to do whatever it takes to achieve my goals.

Dunno who said this, but a quote comes to mind:
“If someone doesn’t want to learn, then nobody can teach them. But if someone wants to learn, then nobody can stop them.”

I want to become that unstoppable learner. And I will figure it out one way or another. I really appreciate what curi has built and maintained here over many decades and I want to give back as much as I can over the course of my lifetime. I’m fairly useless right now considering all my shortcomings and flaws, but I will do my best to contribute by being honest and open and persistent, even when it hurts. It’ll get better with time and effort and open communication from me. I trust that much about the process and hope to hold that long-term vision even when I’m struggling with emotions in the short-term.

You may want to do some skill building before trying to work on emotional problems. E.g. practicing various kinds of trees or practice activities from the Max tutoring.

The inactive Fallible Ideas discord server still exists with searchable archives. Here’s an invite code that’ll expire in a week: DXZxy6Pp

FYI I unsubscribed from Stark’s emails, partly because they got repetitive, and partly because I emailed with Stark briefly a few times and he was quite irrational.

Official mental health diagnoses come with serious, permanent consequences and involve significant dangers, and you can basically never erase them, be undiagnosed, or change your mind. They go into official records where other people in the future can see them even if you don’t want those people to. They can make you ineligible for things and get you discriminated against. Although diagnoses provide some benefits (with strings attached), they don’t exist for your benefit, and are not designed as tools to help you.

Impulses are a type of intuition.

That sounds like something I could have said. But the numbers are just loose approximations. Treating it as a precise deadline doesn’t make sense.

I will try these and see how they feel. I can commit to at least watching the videos and trying a practice activity. I remember I had an aversion to the trees but I should try to make the simplest tree I can imagine that is still effective at describing or laying out something like a concept or discussion so I can understand it better. If I notice any problems I should write about them, like that I got bored or felt stuck on a certain step, and even in the act of writing about it I might solve it myself and be able to go further. I will try to be persistent.

Thank you. I remember wanting to ask for an invite but feeling like it was an unreasonable request and so I never asked. It’s one more example of something I wanted to say/ask/write, but never did, and ended up feeling worse off for not asking. Thank you for solving the problem even when I didn’t explicitly make a request like I should have (worst case is you just say no, but I’m realizing I tend to fear rejection and view requests as harmful even when they almost never are. Kind of like that idea that building a relationship with people where it’s acceptable to make lots of small asks and also acceptable to say no to many of them so that you are likely to find good mutually beneficial proposals to actually say yes to, rather than treating every request as a big deal and then worrying about saying no to many of them and thus being worried about asking for things because it can apply pressure in those more conventional contexts.

I tried twice just now to find the post that I remembered from the fallible ideas that talked about this concept but I couldn’t find it. This one seems to touch on similar ideas and re-skimming it again I like it quite a bit. It’s good to be reminded that I should build relationships on philosophy first, and common interests can always be formed second. Fallible Ideas – Philosophy First

Quote I particularly like:

talking with people doesn’t work well if they have really bad ideas, like they are cruel to children or are socialists, environmentalists, collectivists, or SJWs. lots of people are really intolerant of disagreement and bring up controversial topics like global warming, and then get mad if you don’t agree with them. and all these topics are boring and unpleasant – or worse – if they aren’t discussed rationally in a truth-seeking way. (and most people trying to be rational and truth-seeking mess it up, because it’s a learnable skill with a lot of depth and detail; it’s not something people automatically know)

and disagreement about attitudes to discussion can make talking suck. should you try to learn? should issues be resolved and the truth found? are your ideas serious or just amateur? is criticism good? disagreement about this stuff can really get people out of sync in discussions. if one person is trying to have jokey fun, and one is trying to be serious, that’s not going to go smoothly.

disagreement about social conventions causes problems too. some areas where people may clash are: politeness, stereotyped interactions, friendly mannerisms, socially appropriate responses to statements, and socially normal discussion flow of who says what when. that discussion flow issue includes when you have to listen, when you have to say stuff about their topic regardless of your interest, when you have to say stuff you consider superficial and boring and generic, when you are allowed to change topics, and how much you’re allowed to bring back up topics which the other person drops.

if u don’t get someone to be all philosophically awesome, u end up suppressing lots of thoughts and values around them. it’s too hard to talk with them about it and leads to conflict. when problem solving and disagreement resolving discussions aren’t going amazing, people start doing lowest common denominator interactions. to avoid a clash that will be handled badly, they stick to the most culturally normal stuff, instead of their own unique, personal, individual stuff. so people stop having their values integrated into their whole life.

I think it was irrational of me to treat it as a precise deadline, but I did treat it as some kind of looming scary horizon that I was going to cross and that becoming honest was urgent. But I didn’t turn that into a productive burning passion to take concrete steps towards practicing honesty and testing my level of dishonesty in some objective way or at least trying to track progress on the skill of being honest. I think part of that was reinforced by the idea that I’ve come across multiple times in my life that neuroplasticity in the brain tends to slow down around age 25, and after that it takes more conscious effort and work to form new neural connections or change old ones, and it’s not as natural and easy/unconscious as it is for younger people with more malleable brains. However, thinking about it in terms of neurons and hardware is probably worse than just looking at my idea issues and irrationalities blocking me from learning, because they’re going to be the bottleneck anyway. Counter-productive emotions and the other problems I face don’t have anything to do with neuroplasticity and it’s not a lack of neuroplasticity that is stopping me from fixing those issues. It’s a lack of knowledge.

I archived the Discord channels using DiscordChatExporter (Thanks to Justin for mentioning this tool many years ago and how he had set up a linux server to automate archiving. I remember thinking it was cool that he taught himself how to do that) and also found the relevant context for this message. It seems clear to me that even back then you found my question weird because you had content to address my question and help me become more honest, but I just wasn’t engaging with it yet (and since then I haven’t really engaged with it in a rigorous way to see and measure results on becoming more honest). It looks like this message was within a month of me joining FI so I was still fairly new to the community and ideas.


curi, 09/28/2019:

big picture it’s something like this: 20% of ppl over 5, 50% of ppl over 10, 80% of ppl over 15, 95% of ppl over 20, and 99% of ppl over 25 are horribly dishonest and will never recover.

(This was in reply to someone, so I didn’t take into account that it was a contextual answer too. I also didn’t remember that you gave entire brackets for honesty. If I did, I would have realized that I would roughly fall into the 95% of people over 20 who are dishonest, unless I have some specific evidence or reason to believe I’m in the ~5%, which I don’t think I had at the time and I don’t have now either. These were also US culture estimates, and it was worse in the country of the community member whose dishonesty was being discussed in this context. Choosing not to mention their name because it feels wrong/rude to do so even if the info can be looked up by someone.)

These quotes are kind of out of context because they are from a discussion but I think they are still useful to see here:

i think 99% is low. makes it sound like there are well over 2 million american adults who are pretty honest. that’s so many. where the hell are they?

you changed the issue anne. you said “could”.
i didn’ say they can’t
i was saying won’t
recovery doesn’t violate a law of physics but is not realistic

Also a note for myself: think and learn more about the idea of “dishonesty triggers”. Situations/cues that cause me to think/act/speak dishonestly?

Later on 09/29/2019 I asked:

if 99% of people over the age of 25 won’t develop honesty or meaningfully address their own dishonesty, what are some steps young adults can take to build a mind that constantly works towards honesty and values it inherently?

curi replied:

learn philosophy
i write material on this stuff. i advise ppl engage with it. i find the question weird.

Looking back, it is a weird question. Thinking about it now though I still don’t know how to become more conscious of my dishonesty or notice my dishonesty triggers. I guess setting that goal to write down every lie I tell has helped me be more conscious of my dishonesty to some degree. Lying to myself is the type of dishonesty that is harder for me to notice and more emotionally difficult to accept and address when I do notice examples.


Reading this again to refresh myself once more. I’ve come back to this essay multiple times over the last two years, maybe 3-5 times in that duration, but I need to learn to take concrete steps eventually from it rather than just being aware of the ideas. I would bet I’m also confused about the ideas in this since I haven’t rationally discussed them before or tested my understanding of them

Re: lying.

It makes me feel optimistic that in some ways my standards for honesty are higher than most people I talk to, in the sense that I actively avoid lying by implication, lying by letting convenient misunderstandings be left unclarified/unresolved (e.g. I mention a book and recommend it to someone, and then actively make the effort to clarify that I have not read the full book, but just read its Wikipedia page and thought the ideas in it were relevant to the problem this person is trying to solve. If I didn’t say that, the default assumption is that I did actually read the book, and they’d make a decision based on false information).

However, some of the areas where I definitely suck at honesty are:
(Below quotes from the Lying essay linked above)

Hedging isn’t a get-out-of-jail-free card. To speak honestly, you need to make what you say match your actual thoughts, including whether they’re confident or not. And you need to make your confidence reasonably match reality – honestly consider whether you should be confident given the actions you’ve taken (like research or just hearing something from an unreliable friend).

I hedge a lot. Even in the posts I write here I use phrases like “I think”, and “It seems,”, and I use them in an inconsistent way where even if I’m confident in what I’m writing, I hedge, or sometimes I don’t hedge appropriately or signal my lack of knowledge/confidence/expertise when I am appropriately unconfident.

Making my confidence reasonably match reality is also a challenge for me, although I’ve gotten in the habit of using search engines to e.g. search for criticism of my ideas, and actively look for ways in which my beliefs are wrong to try to counteract my tendency to look for evidence and explanations to confirm what I already believe.

I am also trying to learn to enjoy finding out I’m wrong and enjoy being corrected, although that’s a work in progress. I still have negative emotional reactions sometimes, perhaps because I tie my self-worth to how right I am rather than to how capable of self-correcting errors I am. With a healthier mindset, I would
consistently feel proud when I discover or admit a mistake and figure out a way to learn from it and be better. Currently I only feel proud some of the time, and other times I feel ashamed when that happens.

I really like this fancy red font btw. Looks very pleasant to me.


People lie to themselves because they don’t like some aspect of reality and don’t want to face it. They see a problem, and don’t expect to solve it, and don’t want to live with an unsolved problem.

Self-lies come in big webs (layers and layers of tangled lies supporting each other), and almost everyone has tons of self-lies.

People cut off lots of negative thoughts without letting them reach conscious, clear expression so that it’s easier to be dishonest about it.

Honesty is for people who deal with reality effectively. Most people don’t, so they take refuge in a dishonest relationship with reality. You can take steps to control reality, or you can distort your view of reality. If you do neither, you’ll be unhappy because reality won’t be the way you prefer and you’ll know it.

I think I do a lot of self-lying. By a lot, I mean that I think I lie to myself almost every day about something. I’m guessing part of my emotional pain and aversion to facing reality, e.g. my old problem of not wanting to look at my bank account, or my more recent problem of not wanting to check my DMs here in case there was scary/critical stuff in them, is a sign that I’m lying to myself because facing reality is how I am forced to have my own self-lies tested against the facts in reality. So to avoid correcting them, I avoid the reality, but it just delays my learning and the emotional pain I’m avoiding will potentially just hit me harder later when I have to pay a bigger price and reality inevitably catches up with me, e.g. I ended up paying a bunch of interest on my credit card interest debt from not looking at my bank account regularly and addressing the issue courageously and head on.

I like the way this is explained. It’s simple and clear. I see a problem, don’t expect to solve it (either I think I can’t or I don’t trust that I will even if I can) and I don’t want to live with an unsolved problem. But I think this is why David Goggins says it’s important to be able to look in the mirror and admit the truth about myself, and to face my problems every day, even if I don’t directly work on them every day. Come face to face with them every day and do not ignore them or hide from them. For him that was admitting to himself that he was fat, stupid, and insecure. And then he used those facts to empower himself to take actions to fix them, and he lost weight, learnt how to learn better and gained confidence from realizing he could learn, and began to become more self-confident and stopped relying on others for his self-esteem. He used to lie a lot to people and change himself a lot just to fit in and be liked in high school, but he began to change that as he addressed the other problems and gained self-confidence from realizing that he could outwork anyone if he tried hard enough, and that he could overcome stuff like his learning disability or any other obstacle in his way. I find his story inspiring because he made difficult choices and built up to being capable of great things despite starting off in a pretty shitty spot. He was about my age when he began to make these decisions and put himself on a path to being better. I need to do the same, and stick to the path every day.

People cut off lots of negative thoughts without letting them reach conscious, clear expression so that it’s easier to be dishonest about it.

Trying to figure out how I might build the skill of noticing this. Introspection? One thing is just being less self-judgmental in a way, or changing the way I judge myself. I shouldn’t beat myself up for having negative thoughts, I should aim to notice them and improve how productive my reactions to those negative thoughts are. Cutting them off before they reach conscious expression only hurts me. Writing like this is kind of introspective for me and maybe helps me crystallize and express some of these thoughts.

Honesty is for people who deal with reality effectively. Most people don’t, so they take refuge in a dishonest relationship with reality. You can take steps to control reality, or you can distort your view of reality. If you do neither, you’ll be unhappy because reality won’t be the way you prefer and you’ll know it.

In many areas of my life I do not deal with reality effectively. I hide from it, distort it, rationalize it away and try to make excuses about it and so on. Maybe I’m mixed and in some areas I do deal with it decently, since I’ve managed to survive this long, but I think in most areas I’m really just coping and surviving rather than thriving and mastering my understanding of reality better each day. Kind of like treading water rather than swimming forward.

So I’m unhappy because reality isn’t the way I want it to be, and I know I could be doing things to make it more the way I want it to be but I am not. So really I’m not just unhappy that reality isn’t the way I want it to be, but I’m more mad at myself for not doing the things I know I could be doing to make reality better for me and others. But that mad feeling doesn’t help me do things, so I need to channel it productively, maybe into positive emotions like inspiration and aspiration and passion. Having goals and a clear vision can help. I’ve also noticed that most of the skills I’ve learnt in life have come from helping others and I tend to be most proactive and courageous when advocating on behalf of others and trying to solve problems that they have. If I can learn to treat myself the same way I think I’d make more progress and be more courageous on my behalf.

Fair enough. I’ve noticed I’m terrible at checking my email regularly, and I often sign up for newsletters that I won’t read and then I have to unsubscribe and clean up my inbox. I seem to be best at digging into people’s ideas and content when I’m super interested in it and then I go really deep, but then I move on to other people and ideas after a few weeks/months. Interestingly enough I think your ideas are the ones I’ve stuck with longest over a a significant period of time (like 3.5 years now).

With J. Stark I watched a bunch of his videos, listened to podcasts, read some of his blog, and e.g. saw some webinar recordings he ran analyzing people’s websites. The ideas I liked from him were about the

  • laser focused positioning statement,
  • positioning/why it’s good to pigeonhole yourself/have a niche, and why it gets you more leads and higher quality customers in the long run (Seth Godin writes about this a lot too)
  • why hourly billing is bad for the client and the consultant, and value pricing or fixed project pricing is just better
  • Why/How it can be good for both you and the client if you charge more for your work
  • The Three Whys categories of questions he asks people before taking them on as clients (Why this, Why now, Why me?) – if they can’t answer this, it’s not a good mutual fit. Good businesspeople will also appreciate being asked these types of questions because they will either have thought of the answers already, or will value being asked them and meeting someone who is thinking about their business like a partner rather than a hired pair of hands.
  • His template for a consulting proposal that put all of this together and also did things like the 10, 22, and 50% pricing curve, with each increasing level offering everything from the previous level plus more, and how he talks about outsourcing grunt work/manual labour, but charging more for his attention and knowledge rather than his time, since a lot of time intensive stuff can be outsourced. I made a copy of this template and modified it for our indie game startup in case we ever ran out of money and needed to do consulting to buy more time to develop the game, but we’ve turned out to be self-sustaining since we’re all doing it on the side while being financially sustainable without the startup needing to generate revenue. It also means we don’t have to crunch on game dev and we can take as long as we need to make and test the product
  • His webinars reviewing websites opened me up to some basic design and UX concepts I had not been familiar with, like a call to action and how to think about the way a user navigates a website. This part isn’t unique to him though, it’s just how I happened to learn those concepts for the first time.

I emailed him once and he responded, about an ex-colleague of mine I was trying to help start a consulting business of his own. He said my colleague seemed to have anti-marketing ideas, which I realized later was maybe true, since my colleague believed that he couldn’t outcompete the people who were willing to lie or market unethically and be snake oil salesmen if all he did himself was offer clear value based in reality without resorting to unethical marketing tactics.

One mistake I think I made repeatedly in FI and generally make in my life is that I pressured myself to change my mind about people and books too quickly. When I first joined FI in late 2019, I was interested in reading lots of pop science/psychology/self-help/leadership type books, like Crucial Conversations, Influencer, Change Anything, Leaders Eat Last, Start With Why, Stumbling on Happiness, Radical Candor, and a bunch of Seth Godin’s books like The Icarus Deception.

With FI’s criticism I started to realize that many of these books were using correlation based science, but I think I discounted their explanations and reasoning too quickly and changed myself too quickly to be averse to not reading these books, when I didn’t replace them yet with something better. So I left myself with a hole in my life and a kind of sadness from not having these books to read. I didn’t have the self-awareness to realize at the time that this was happening. I think it’s similar to that idea of the superstitious person who sees a psychic regularly, but learns some stuff and becomes less superstitious, but then stops going to the psychic and feels a sense of loss, because they didn’t account for the fact that the psychic was also providing them social connection, a supportive listening ear, and maybe even fulfilling the role of a therapist. So with some introspection/awareness, the superstitious person should try replacing those psychic sessions with therapist or friend 1 on 1 chat sessions to see if that improves their life.

I did try to start reading Eli Goldratt books, Karl Popper’s books, Hazlitt’s books, and Aubrey De Grey’s book, but I wasn’t able to stick with them for long and move quickly between books in a passionate way like I was with the previous pop sci stuff. I think I needed to spend more time noticing and diagnosing that issue, and also trying to start with the books that interested me most and building more interest in the adjacent stuff from there. Aubrey De Grey’s book was engaging for approximately the first half and then I got bored. Eli Goldratt’s “The Goal”, “The Choice” and “It’s Not Luck” were all nice when I read them and I remember enjoying them as storybooks. But something must have gone wrong because I don’t remember a lot of the specific ideas from these books, whereas with the pop science and psych books I remember a lot of the ideas very clearly, and I also remember a lot of J. Stark’s ideas very clearly even though it’s been years since I looked into them last. The quality of my memories seems to be tied in to how well I am enjoying learning something at the time, and maybe Eli Goldratt’s concepts were too advanced for me and I did not put in the necessary effort to both enjoy learning them more deeply and also properly understand them so they’d stick with me. With the pop sci books, I discussed them a lot with my colleague who was the one who introduced me to Crucial Conversations and got me on that virtuous upward cycle of reading a lot of books, often moving towards more rigorous and better books and philosophy over time (and leading to me finding FI eventually through DD’s podcast)

Writing this out made me realize I want to try Eli Goldratt’s ideas again, because maybe I am wiser and more self-aware now, and also more interested in project management formally. Some of the ideas that definitely stuck with me were about constraints, like I remember telling my colleague how it blew my mind to realize that I could help increase his productivity 10x in the office, but it wouldn’t matter for the business at all if his work was being constrained downstream by e.g. someone else who has to process it, or the business having to market more effectively to sell the extra intellectual product, or whatever other constraint might be there. Before that idea, I used to just assume that if I help a colleague become more productive, I’m helping the business as a whole, but that idea made me realize I need to be specific and deliberate about where I make improvements because most improvements just won’t be meaningful and will be wasted in terms of generating profit. I still liked helping people though because it felt good to make their work easier/faster for them/make them happier at work.

This is a good point and I should be careful about getting formally diagnosed. I did recently remember and rediscover that my mom took me to BC Children’s Hospital when I was a kid (around age 13-14) and they did some kind of brain scan and diagnosed me with ADHD. I think it was like a consultant who did it rather than an official doctor because I don’t think it’s on my official medical records. My mom recently emailed me those results and when I went over them I felt like they were pseudoscientific and correlation based. My mom also told me at the time that she did get ADHD medication for me (I don’t know which ones, Adderall or Ritalin? or maybe something else) but that she gave me the choice of taking it or not. Apparently I chose not to take them. I don’t remember any of this.

During the time I was running the UE New World guild I did interviews of people in the guild and one guy I met is a programmer with ADHD and he talked about how the medication made him feel different and he didn’t like who he was while on his medication (Ritalin for him I think, I’d have to go back and check my interview notes from when I talked to him to confirm), like he was mood-swingy and his emotions felt more uncontrollable and with higher peaks and lows. So he got off the medication and decided to try just different mental habits and interventions, or behavioural changes, rather than pharmaceutical ones. He seemed much happier with that approach, and he talked about some stuff that works for him e.g. Listening to a podcast while programming and tuning it out, treating it like background conversation. It was an interesting conversation for me and helped me potentially understand myself a bit better and implement some habits for me as well. I definitely want to avoid any brain altering drugs like anti depressants, SSRIs, stimulants and stuff unless my life depends on taking them. I read some of Szasz’s ideas and I like the idea that a lot of so called psychiatric problems are really just problems of living, because living is a complex and difficult thing, and functioning well in society is going to require constant learning and adjustment and improvement. Having problems fitting in is fine and I can work on them. I don’t need to take medication just to fit in, and I can learn to work with however my mind is to get the results I want in my work or day to day life.

the quote goes on to talk about ppl dealing with disagreement poorly.

i wanted to say i shouldn’t have given that particular list. conventional parents, capitalists, global warming skeptics, individualists and people with conservative social values all tend to have bad ideas too.

the issue is whether people are willing to discuss in productive ways or not. most members of all major groups are bad at that. it’s just a most people problem.

i also said something relevant recently regarding romantic partners:

Podcast Requests - #7 by Elliot

A problematic pairing is someone making rapid, unbounded intellectual progress with someone who isn’t. Other than that, there’s no particular need to upgrade to a better partner. If someone else is doing good work relevant to your career, you can collaborate non-romantically (which is the more common type of collaboration).

one way to look at the “philosophy first” idea is if you are making rapid, unbounded progress (or at least aren’t stuck and make progress regularly), then you should look for other people like that. two stuck people or two progress-making people both work as pairings, but one of each leads to conflict (which I think explains a lot of the conflicts I’ve had with people. e.g. the harassment campaign is coming from people who are stuck and can’t get along with me because i make progress and they don’t, but they don’t want to admit it and want to blame me. and also b/c they’ve seen me make progress and do good work, they have trouble seeing me as unimportant or irrelevant – my ability to make progress has stood out in their mind and made them a bit obsessed with me. that is not a typical result but over the years a decent number of people have decided i’m super rational and important and then been unable to face their inability to be like that too and they really wanted my approval and maybe also conventional social status and they get upset when i have standards they don’t meet and they feel judged negatively. some ppl like DD maybe don’t really get that anywhere else. who else looks down on DD and thinks he’s not good enough, not rational enough, not making enough progress, etc? and a lot of the ppl who dislike me are used to being respected and viewed as one of the smartest people in the room and can’t handle being challenged and failing and being revealed as not really able to be intellectually productive currently. and when i suggest they start studying and skill building, some of them hate me for it. and the better i am at doing critical analysis that shows their problems and why my suggestion is reasonable, the more they are going to dislike me.)

Those books sound potentially good to read. People need decent skills at dealing with e.g. habits, motivation, procrastination, emotions, and lots more. Catching up to some of the better mainstream knowledge is a reasonable way to get started. Trying to skip that and jump ahead to more unusual CF ideas may not work b/c CF material is in some ways (not all) oriented to people who are already well above average at running their lives and managing their own learning (as well as rationality, knowledge of the world, etc).

It’s also good to be familiar with a variety of ideas and perspectives. You can’t really know how good CF is unless you have some experience with a bunch of other things you can compare to. And most fields have some useful bits and pieces mixed in even if a lot of stuff is wrong or there are some important systematic errors.

Yeah enjoyment is a major signal about what’s going on in your subconscious. It’s important information. If you have a conflict where you don’t like something or you like something else more, then you need to do something about that not try to ignore or suppress part of yourself. (ppl often deny negativity and try to interpret stuff as everything is great and some stuff is more great). My articles about intuition and subconscious are relevant.

Note that my theory is very different than DD’s “follow the fun”. I say “not fun = problem = problem solving needing”. If part of you thinks you should do X, but you find Y more fun, and then you just do Y b/c it’s fun, that is just as bad as suppressing your intuition and doing X. You need to try to resolve the conflict, not suppress either conflicting part of you.


Also note conflict resolution can be temporary. If it’s hard to find a great solution, you might be able to try X or Y for a month to get more information without the other part of you objecting to that experiment. Or you might decide to try them both for a week each and both parts of you might be OK with that. Getting more information to better see the problems or benefits with something is pretty different than just deciding to pursue it (into the indefinite future) b/c you concluded it’s good.

Just as a person can say to another person “Yeah go ahead and try it and you’ll see how bad it is and see that I was right.”, parts of yourself can have an attitude like that. In that case, despite the somewhat bad attitude (it could be nicer and more open minded), they still aren’t objecting to doing it, so you don’t have an active conflict.

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Taking concrete steps directly about honesty stuff is often hard. Honesty is a bit abstract and our society has confusions about it. People often have a “don’t know what steps to take” type problem about it.

One way to proceed is skill building. You can get better a rationality, logic, project and time management, etc., and possibly first get better at smaller sub-skills. Whenever proceeding is hard you can try to break things down into smaller parts to learn (then practice and automatize). I have made trees like An Organized Plan for Learning Philosophy (explained with a tree diagram) [CF Video] showing lots of relevant skills. I also have examples of how to practice more abstract intellectual things like Practice Thinking in Terms of Error Correction

I find people usually simply don’t do much of this stuff. I’m not clear on why. I don’t think it being too hard is the blocker.

When people do it, they often soon stop or else they focus on one thing a bunch (e.g. grammar) and never move on to some later steps so it doesn’t lead to very useful results.

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I know one reason people stop is they get things wrong and find that discouraging. If they kept trying most days they’d probably have gotten a lot better within a few weeks but instead they seem to give up and don’t do much for months.

I think it’s related to breaking stuff down into smaller and easier parts makes it more beginner-friendly, easy, simple, approachable, etc. That’s partly good but partly makes it less impressive and lower social status. People don’t want to do kid stuff; they want to already be better than that. And getting things wrong is hard on people when they think they’re way above it; better to avoid doing it than face not being as good as they think they already are and/or try to get other people to think they are.


Reminder for myself to comment/write more about this, in relation to League as well and how coaches advocate playing just one champion to learn the game for a long time, and then learning new champions when one is better at the game and they can be learnt faster:

When you quit it should be easy. If you have a good solution then you won’t have much temptation, relapses, mixed feelings, etc. If you’re running into those kinds of issues then stop trying to quit and go back to the learning-but-not-changing phase.

This all fits with the general pattern I advocate of powering up first (especially by learning) and then doing things when they’re easy. Trying to do things when they’re hard is inefficient and you’d be better off learning more instead of putting so much effort into doing this one thing early.

Quote from: Curiosity – Changing Habits

That’s an example of learning fewer things at once. Find ways to break a large learning project into parts and only work on some parts at a time.

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So doing tutoring activities and mindmaps/discussion trees is a way to power up and learn before trying to change harder things (like emotions) and before attacking parts of myself I don’t like, because then they will try to defend themselves. If I can collaborate and work with them and find win-win solutions with them, changing is much easier, more sustainable, and more realistic and achievable. And I’ll pay less of a cost in unexpected side-effects or psychological self-harm

I seem to have some blocks or barriers to doing those basic activities, but I was able to go back to basics with League and do baby steps for 25+ days in a row, 5-6 hours a day, incorporating drills, coaching, and a set number of games per day. So if I can do it with League, I can learn to do it with philosophy too. Worth exploring. Need to pay attention to what difficulties come up as I try to do basic activities and diagnose them and solve them. Need to learn to be persistent and be ready to solve hundreds of problems as they come up, not give up after 3 or 5. Manage my expectations. When I’m prepared for lots of problems, I have an easier time handling them. With League I was prepared to spend 6 months to 1 year to get good, so 2 weeks of drills did not feel hard or overwhelming. Will write more updates later, and also need to remember to try to summarize what happened with the New World guild and that whole story because I feel like I learnt a lot about myself from that process and about what careers could be a good fit for me, what my values are, what kind of person I am, and where I should direct my life

I find this post relatable and I think I have similar problems and similar emotional issues with shame, which leads to giving up and ghosting people, which leads to guilt. It’s helpful for me to hear about this stuff. Some of the examples you gave were eerily similar to my own life, which makes me think a lot of this stuff is pretty common.

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Thank you. That makes me feel less alone in my flaws and some of the disappointment I experience about myself.