Tutoring Video Activities (renamed from June Learning)

This is a suggested learning activity for June 2021: Watch my tutoring videos and do the activities. You should do at least 75% of the activities. Don’t just keep watching and skip the activities. Activities include both activities done in the video and activities suggested for the person to do later. You can pause to do activities using the same examples in the videos before you see how it’s done and/or practice similar activities (e.g. watch how a sentence is analyzed, then come up with a different sentence to practice on).

The tutoring videos are good because they’re meant for teaching. And almost everything I teach in them is relevant to most people, not just to the other person in the video. And in the Max videos, one of the goals was to show him how to do learning activities and give him stuff he could work on, on his own, afterwards. I put effort into figuring out activities that’d be doable independently.

It’d be best to post about activities you do, as well as posting about your understanding of the video ideas. Post questions and things you get stuck on.

People will benefit far more from activities intended for learning than from debating random or advanced stuff, reading/watching/listening most stuff online (including social media feeds, news articles or anything political), reading without practicing, or trying to teach others (self-improvement needs to come before guiding others).


i watched a bit of the first Max Tutoring video and had some trouble figuring out what I should be doing and got kind of frustrated. I started thinking maybe I’d do the grammar exercises that were on screen from the grammar article as review. I wasn’t sure that’d be a great use of time though. I did a few of them but then got a bit frustrated. So I didn’t have a good time.
I think I didn’t have my own goals for the learning activity. I was just trying to follow someone else’s suggestion without being convinced of it or knowing what exactly I should be doing. If I’ve got some inherent interest in doing something and there is a ton of structure to the material then I can do okay. The videos feel less structured than, say, a textbook, which is a format I’m used to more. So you combine the iffy motivation and the different structure and it becomes harder.
I make use of videos all the time in learning stuff, but those tend to be shorter and on more discrete topics.

This is all by way of discussing and analyzing my own issues and not intended as criticism of the learning activity suggestion, which i think is fine. I figured that if I’m having issues other people probably will as well, but they might not talk about them so I might as well.

If you’ve already done an activity, you can skip it!

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I was watching some of one of the Max videos Tutoring Max #2 - YouTube

At the time stamp I linked, @Max talks about how he had recently claimed that he hadn’t attacked someone because he didn’t call them a name or something like that, and compared this reasoning to the Wynand quote about the woman who thought she had integrity cuz she’d never stolen any money.

I thought that was interesting. People know there are social rules that involve attacks short of calling people names. And they often engage in attacks against others in nuanced ways. But if they are attacked they’ll retreat to some view like Max talks about - where what counts as an attack is only really blatant stuff.

So there’s a gap there - there are the standards they actually operate by, and the standards that they retreat to when they’re called out. Their IRL standards are consistent with a world where subtle social attacks happen and are effective and are worth doing. Their proclaimed moral standards describe a world where only really blatant stuff is a social attack.

idk that it’s having 2 sets of standards rather than just being really biased in their own favor when accused of something bad. i think maybe they have flexible standards that flex based on amount of bias.

yeah that sounds plausible

At around 1:57:00 in Tutoring Max #2, Elliot suggests that Max write down what he thinks overreaching is and how it works. I’ll try doing the same. I’m going from my memory/existing conceptions and am not reviewing any material., so this might be mostly or totally wrong. I’ll review material and compare my writing to it later. I am doing it this way (without any review) because getting a baseline for what I already know about the topic and what misconceptions I have seems like a good idea. Any errors are obviously my own.



Overreaching is when you try to do something for which the number of errors you make exceeds your capacity to correct those errors. The result is a failure to succeed in achieving some goal.


If you try to write a complex essay or other piece of writing in a language you only partially know, that’s likely overreaching. You’ll be making all sorts of errors - regarding the use and meaning of words, or grammar, or syntax, or even writing/typing out the letters correctly. What you need to do is go and basically learn the language more instead of trying to write stuff in the language with insufficient skill.

If you try to bake bread but you don’t understand stuff like how yeast can die and how you can check if they are dead (or reduce the chances of having dead yeast in the first place), or the importance of precision in weighing ingredients, or how moist the dough should be, or various other things, then things may go wrong with your bread project. So if your goal is to actually successfully bake a certain kind of bread and not something else (like having a bunch of funny-looking failures at baking bread you can post to your Instagram), then you are overreaching if you proceed with the bread project without some learning more things. Things will likely go wrong and you won’t know what to do to fix it. Baking bread also has long cycles (can take a few hours) before you get feedback.


You can learn more and expand your capacity to correct errors in various fields. So I think that overreaching always exists relative to a context of some knowledge. If you had enough additional relevant knowledge, you wouldn’t be overreaching when trying to achieve some goal. Overreaching also exists in a context of having some goal. You could do the same basic activity, with the same knowledge, but with a different goal, and not have it be overreaching. For example, if you honestly just tried to write an essay in a language you think you’re shaky with the goal of just seeing how far you can get (and not with the actual goal of writing a good piece of writing), then that’s not overreaching. But you need to know what your goals are, and not change your goals if things go badly.

Fixing Overreaching

You can fix overreaching by gaining more relevant skill or by picking goals more compatible with your current skill. What you don’t want to do, though, is to keep trying to accomplish goals that you can’t handle given insufficient skill. You also don’t want to lie to yourself about what your goals are.

You probably already understand this, but both number and severity of errors matter.

Yeah. I actually thought of mentioning severity or seriousness of the error but was trying to keep definition part really simple. Might have overdone it. (Earlier draft had like, a long paragraph that was trying to address a bunch of objections. Maybe went too far in the other direction in editing…)

@Max posted some thoughts on overreaching on FI list on June 24, 2020, in an email titled " “overreaching & ambition as a crutch”. I’m going to very selectively go over part of that email and talk about it. I haven’t watched the relevant part of the Tutoring video yet (or, not very recently, anyways), as I wanted to write a couple of my own comments on Max’s stuff before watching.

The way this is written makes overreaching sound like an inevitable thing that people run into. But in Elliot’s overreaching essay he gives a bunch of reasons why people overreach. I can imagine a different culture with different ideas where overreaching is a much rarer kind of error.

Also I think maybe Max is trying to do stuff that’s too complicated in this initial writing on the topic. Max is trying to do pretty advanced analysis of some sort of stages of overreaching. By comparison, I started with trying to define what overreaching was before going into concrete examples and then going into other more big picture points. I think the basic approach of starting with an abstract statement + some concretes is good and helps keep things grounded (and helps with error correction).

  1. ignorance: you do not know when you are overreaching, what the
    consequences are, etc
    no one can avoid this!
    but many ppl never get past it

I’m not 100% sure what Max means, but I think Max means that running into problems due to ignorance is unavoidable specifically regarding the overreaching issue. I don’t agree. If better ideas spread about overreaching then it would become a culturally known risk and fewer people would encounter it as a problem. There’s no way to guarantee avoiding it but our knowledge for dealing with the problem could become way more robust.

oh cool Elliot’s organizing the Max email into an idea tree. I kinda remember this. Overreaching section is time-stamped in the description

Tutoring Max #3 - YouTube

Ah so, based on video, part of Max’s purpose in organizing things the way he did was to try to have super explicit steps that were easy to criticize if people saw an issue. That makes the approach he took somewhat more sensible. Like he was trying to start from super super foundational level

oh one thing I didn’t talk about that’s mentioned in the video is the connection between overreaching and doing stuff that’s hard for you to self-evaluate your success at

Around the hour mark in Tutoring Max #3, Elliot emphasizes calibrating your claims and activities to your knowledge as the key thing for addressing overreaching. He says you could always try to do stuff that’s too ambitious regardless of how much you know; OTOH even a pretty ignorant person could avoid overreaching by staying within their abilities

I also discuss that in these articles:

Towards the end of Tutoring Max #3, Elliot recommended reviewing overreaching essays like this one and sharing comments


I made some Mochi flash cards that attempt to break down the ideas in the essay into small chunks

Life, Overreaching and Correcting Error - Mochi

I really liked this point in the essay:

If I only want to know one thing about video encoding software, and then go back to being an artist, it’d be a huge project. It’d take a ton of work. But if I would keep using that programming and math knowledge in other projects (so the cost of learning it is divided over 1000 projects during my life), then the project is reasonably cheap and efficient.

When you look at what you need to learn for a project, consider which knowledge could be reused on other projects, and whether those are other projects you actually want to do. Lots of programming knowledge is reusable in the future – but only if you do more projects related to programming.

The basic idea of dividing the cost of learning over the number of projects your learning will come up in is a good one

From the flash cards:

What does it mean to have a lifestyle with spare capacity?

It means that you have error correction ability that exceeds the errors you have to correct in your lifestyle. Spare capacity is great: it can be used to do extra stuff you want to do, or to learn new things.

A comment (idk if I said this in that particular essay; didn’t check):

Spare capacity also provides a margin of error. It’s a buffer that protects you against variance. In general, one shouldn’t try to spend one’s entire budget for a resource. This is discussed in Goldratt’s books, including his criticism of a balanced manufacturing plant (which is a plant that plans to spend the entire production budget of every work station on the production line – which some people mistakenly see as the ideal of efficiency) in The Goal.


Another flashcard:

Some people think that you have to try doing really ambitious things or you’ll stop growing. What’s Elliot’s perspective?

Elliot thinks that this is a false dichotomy; the only effective way to grow as a person is to do manageable things a little ahead of where you are now.

The general idea of making progress through lots of small steps is not unusual btw. You can find it in lots of other places. For example:

The video title is:

Counterintuitive Approach: Set Small Goals In Order To Get Big Results