Good goals for leveling up?

post by wolverdude · 2019-12-29T05:25:09.661Z · LW · GW · 6 comments

This is a question post.

I'm new to LessWrong and am trying to level up and internalize techniques to improve my life. I also want to increase my connection to the community, but that's less important for this question. I'm setting some goals for next year and was thinking about how to encode these meta-goals into SMARTer goals.

My question: what are some good goals for leveling up in a wholistic way? I don't just want to read things. I want to become conversant in them, and I want to put them into practice. I've written down some ideas below (I don't intend to do all of them; they're just ideas at this point). Feel free to critique them and/or ignore them and write your own.

Again: As a newbie, what is a good set of goals to help me level up quickly and sustainably?

Edit: Based on the comments, I should specify that these would not be my only goals for the year. They would just be the ones that have to do with learning and applying Rationality techniques.


answer by John Igo · 2019-12-30T20:39:39.997Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I've read HPMoR and the Sequences, but I'm new to this community too, so forgive a poorly written answer.

I've found goals that focus on effort rather than results are much better. e.g. I'd re-frame your "Write X blog...", "Learn X new ...", "Read through X..." as "Spend X time writing ...", "Spend X time learning ...", "Spend X time reading..."

As a previous answer pointed out, this list is pretty focused on Less-Wrong style rationality, and not really wholistic improvement. Wholistic leveling up would focus effort on transferable skills - but that's a lot harder to do, things like: eat X servings of vegetables, wake up at the same time every day, exercise X times per week, meditate X mornings a week, turn off electronics at 9 PM, wake up at the same time every day, spend time with friends ...

Outside of the character buff stuff listed above, I try to have personal checklists (call loved ones X times per week, eat 2 dinners with friends...) and 2-3 work-like projects at any given time setting SMART goals working towards their completion. Right now the 3 are, wrapping up PhD research, designing new pieces of climbing equipment, writing up/completing old research ideas.

Wrapping up PhD research is broken down into: training new group members, analyzing old data, handing off research projects. Designing new pieces of climbing equipment breaks down to: CAD 3D models, print, test, repeat. Writing up/completing old research projects is easily the least well defined, but will involve a lot of Less-Wrong posts so the community can tell me how wrong my thinking is.

I hope that helps a little.

Edits for grammar

comment by Viliam · 2019-12-29T23:48:32.250Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Welcome! As a dinosaur in the community, I can only upvote your answer.

I think about things in life as either "required" or "optional". Required are the ones whose absence would hurt you, and which cannot be fully compensated by being great at something else; the archetypal example would be health. Optional are the ones that may be great to have, but you could have a fully satisfying life without them, too; the archetypal example would be playing a piano. (Of course it's not completely black and white.)

A good life would then require being good (even if not great) at the required things, and to excel at one or two of the optional ones. Because the optional ones are usually what gets you money. Health may be one of the most important things in your life, but having superior health doesn't buy you food or a place to sleep. However, being a great piano player could get you a job (traditional or not), which could pay your bills.

Going to more technical detail, the required things have a convex usefulness curve. It is much better to exercise than to not exercise at all, but you should not worry too much about having the best exercise regime in the world (unless you want to turn this into a source of income, which is in the "optional" territory). In other words, you should focus on improving the required skill you currently suck most at, because improving that one will give you most benefit. -- With the optional things it is the other way round. Being a mediocre piano player is not much better than not playing piano at all; it is a waste of time either way. Among the optional things, pick one and become great at it; and maybe have another one as a backup.

Holistic leveling up would then consist of making a list of all "required" things, evaluating sincerely how good you are at each of them, and focusing on the ones you have most neglected. Plus doing something about your selected "optional" thing.

Going too wide on the optional things... trust me, I understand the allure... but if you try writing blogs and playing a piano and learning a foreign language and studying math and coding your website and working on your novel... while you eat chocolate, drink Cola, barely go outside, and sleep 4 hours a night... you are doing it wrong. Yet it is easy to deny this wrongness by focusing on the "holistic" part of the picture ("writing and piano and languages, how richer and more balanced than those people who only play the piano!"). Gods know how much my brain tries to drag me this way.

I am saying this because I have a feeling that "writing X blogs per month" is very likely a bad goal. It feels like something that should be done -- if you are reading a community blog, it feels fair to reciprocate by writing; also, writing good articles is high-status here -- but unless you have a comparative advantage here, it is most likely not the best course of action.

Disclaimer: I don't discourage anyone from writing, just because they are not a superstar! Only from having "X blogs per month" as a goal. Do the thing that is best for you to do; and then perhaps write a report on it when you achieved progress. Just don't write instead of doing the best thing.

Replies from: eigen
comment by eigen · 2019-12-30T00:47:35.589Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

This is a great comment!

I think,

Holistic leveling up would then consist of making a list of all "required" things, evaluating sincerely how good you are at each of them, and focusing on the ones you have most neglected. Plus doing something about your selected "optional" thing.

there is a lot of value on just thinking on what our values are, what we need and feel we need, and what the best course of action is (while also committing); but the framework of these "required" and "optional" framework makes it better, especially when coupled with the idea of following the things which are likely to provide most benefit!


On the other hand the last paragraphs deserve another post on their own, I remember Eliezer writing that any writer has at least 1million words that need to get out before writing the real stuff. I would say, “don't push that million on me!”

Anyways, welcome John Igo, I really like it when new users read the stuff that the community is really about.

answer by DanielFilan · 2019-12-29T06:56:16.239Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't know how general this is, but I think that the online probabilistic forecasting community is joinable, and has affordances to improve (e.g. gather relevant data and make a linear model, make 50 predictions about your personal life and see how calibrated you are). Relevant websites include Metaculus, Foretold, and the Good Judgement Project. That being said, after a certain point I think this has limited practical benefits.


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comment by shminux · 2019-12-29T06:04:39.203Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You ask

what are some good goals for leveling up in a wholistic way?

and yet list only the goals narrowly centered on LW-style rationality. Consider expanding the list outside of this tiny circle. Improving your empathy levels and emotional intelligence might be something to look into. The timeless classic is a good way to start.

Replies from: wolverdude
comment by wolverdude · 2019-12-29T06:57:27.864Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I suppose I didn't mean "wholistic" in quite that way. That said, maybe I should have. Perhaps as I level up according to my goals, I'll discover that I need to do these things too (or others I haven't thought about).

This leads me into a tangential question about goal-setting in general: What if I don't currently have enough information to know what I should be aiming for? What if there are unknown unknowns out there? How do I account for that?