A Personal Record, and a Call For Advice:

post by Ambition · 2013-07-27T01:08:17.385Z · score: 0 (1 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · None comments


   My Childhood
   My Education
   Becoming Rational
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This is my first post here on LessWrong, so I'll start off by introducing myself.

My name is Caleb, and I've been reading here on LessWrong for quite some time now. I suspect nobody will be surprised when I say it was HPMOR that brought me here, as it has so many people. I am a Musician, I play the Violin, Piano and somewhat Guitar, (which I need to work on), and my hobbies include recursive self-improvement, reading books, and discovering new ways to improve my life.

Now, it should be clear from the title that I'm not really offering new insight here, (not quite there yet), but am instead asking the community for advice. I know there are a lot of people out there who stand to benefit from hearing applicable information that doesn't require too much base knowledge of rationality. I'm going to be talking quite a bit about my personal history, mostly for a personal record. I recommend skipping directly to the "A Call for Advice" section, to get to the part where I actually talk about what information I'm looking for, if you could care less about my history.


My Childhood

When I was born, my parents were both Christian. My mother came from a family that took the Bible literally. Thus it was a patriarchy, and she grew up having been taught that a "woman's purpose" was to serve man. My father came from a "cherry-picking" Christian family, and had three separate stepfathers before he turned 10. They were both 21 when I came into existence, and still trying to achieve their goals.

I was very young, (not quite sure how old), when they became atheists, or at least stopped believing in a god. Because of this, it wasn't particularly hard for me to change perspectives, and I could somewhat follow my father's, "Just because somebody says he's Superman, that doesn't mean he is" explanation for me. My brother, Pascal, was born when I was 4, and Atlas soon followed.

My Education

We moved often, and so I was taught by my mother until we settled in Hollywood, where my father pursued his dream of becoming a filmmaker. Because of this, I made my first encounter with public schooling in the third grade, where I was quickly made aware of how regular children behaved. My mother had not neglected my education, and I already knew nearly everything my teacher had to offer. It wasn't long before she told me to stop raising my hand, and to not ask any more questions. This did not sit well with my family, and before long they had a little talk with my teacher. I of course still refrained from asking questions, since I was taught to always be considerate of others.

I hesitate to say things were tough for me, when I know compared to some situations it was hardly difficult at all, but it certainly wasn't easy for me. My social skills were practically non-existent, formed on the basis of being unfailingly polite and friendly to people, and the idea of hurting others for your own gain was alien to me. I would do anything people asked for, which inevitably lead to me being exploited quite a bit. I also stuck out like a sore thumb, standing was several inches taller than my classmates. Unsurprisingly, my lack of religious faith was very disturbing to the children, (and teachers). Luckily, before long I was given a test to measure my aptitude for academic success. I was deemed highly gifted, and transferred to a school with special programs for me to take.

The new school was much cleaner, with bigger classrooms and more teachers, but the kids did not change much at all. An attempted, "Hello, I'm Caleb. Would you like to be friends?", got me a swift shoving from the girl I was talking to, who proceeded to confront me for the remainder of my time there. While my relations with fellow classmates was less than desired, I got along very well with my math teacher, who quickly made it his goal to stretch my limits, which was an annoying change from breezing through school with minimal effort. Every week was met with a new math puzzle, a new time trial, or various unique assignments that trained me to be flexible in language and mathematics. 

While I was shining in one area, I was doing painfully bad in another. Math was like a puzzle for me, with multiple different pieces to combine in order to get the picture I wanted. History was a long boring monologue of information I saw little purpose in, and required mind numbing hours of study. You see, I had been relying on my quick and flexible understanding of concepts when doing work before. History had little use for these things, really only needing a long attention span, and a willingness to work on it for a while. I had neither of these things at the time, and scraped by mainly on special projects and papers.

Eventually we had to move again, and found a new solution to my schooling, an online course program called k12, where I could work independently online, and work ahead as much as I chose. At this point I very much stopped caring about school at all, avoiding difficult work wherever possible, and cutting corners as much as I could. It was thanks to the intervention of my parents, and their choice of difficult classes for me, that made it difficult for me to simply take the easy road, something I am very grateful for.


Becoming Rational

Several things were ingrained into me by my family, two of which being my desire for learning, and my never ending quest for self improvement. "Be the best you can be." This is what my father would tell me whenever I'd feel without direction. Unfortunately these ideals were often overridden by simpler desires, such as to avoid work, and experience a good story. My desire for learning ended up being filled by Video Games, where I could immediately excel and feel the enjoyment that comes with achieving things, without the pain of hard work being present. 

One day, my father sent me a PDF, titled "Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality", telling me that it would be like nothing I had ever read before. It went to be one of my favorite novels ever written, and continues to be, but more importantly, it gave me a new perspective. Rationality, the science of winning at life. Finding the hidden rules behind the turnings of the world, the thoughts that run under the surface of consciousness, the ways that one could understand, and apply knowledge to everyday life. If there was ever one event, or thought that truly changed me, it was this. 

Up until this point I had fluctuated from concept to concept. My family would support me in anything that piqued my interest, and so I collected a wide range of talents. Acting, Musical Composing, Drawing, I can't really say what it was that pulled me to these things, but those were what I pursued. A firm believer in the power of research, I could improve at an increased rate, simply by taking advice from people who had already done what I sought to accomplish, a tool too few people used in my opinion; then, there was this. It was like the final piece, to a puzzle I had never fully solved. 

It was this that got me interested in psychology, which I pursued with a passion, and continue to today.

My Current State

A lot has changed since that day, and I can happily say that I have improved. My personality type was INFP, although at this point the INTP description fits me much better. In any case, the INFP personality has a very nasty tendency to mentally block off unwanted information. Any thoughts that caused me discomfort, be it the topic of death, or the paper I needed to write, my mind would push back, and then forget, leaving me free to enjoy life without such burdens on my mind. Obviously this lead to major problems, and it was the very first thing that I fixed. (I have very good recall at this point, and I decided to just keep the habit of writing things down when I want to remember them.)

I also Workout regularly, and also meditate as a part of my daily routine. Thanks to a comment on Cold Thermogenesis, I now take the coldest showers I can, which I have come to enjoy. Non-Fiction reading takes place on a daily basis, and I have resolved myself to take the hardest courses K12 High School will let me take. I study and write music, (with mixed success), and also continue to read here on LessWrong.

A Call for Advice

Finally to the actual topic of this post. Now, on August 4th, I will be turning 15, and I've decided to make this the real turning point of my life, through a project I'm calling "The Grand Plan" for lack of a better name. (need to work on that) 

The Grand Plan is me researching an enormous multitude of life improvements, useful skills, worthwhile areas of study, and organizing them into a general plan of where to go from here. What things give me a boost in utility the most and the quickest? What time spent on short term gain should be diverted into starting long term goals? What makes a long term goal more worthwhile to start now? What benefits should I be going for first? Should I first improve myself to improve my money making abilities, or should I first improve my money in order to improve myself? Should I start by learning skills that make you better at learning skills? Or should I divert some of that time into learning a skill early?

It should be pretty clear why this is going to take a while. The sheer scope of the project and amount of information to sort through would have daunted me before, but I've taught myself control, and it will have been a worthwhile experience even if I fail. Besides, at the same time I'm doing useful research on life improvements, and that's always a plus.

Now, what I'm asking for is quite simple. I'd like to hear from LessWrong what things are of high importance to learn at a young age, or even to learn in general. My ultimate goal is of course to upgrade my wealth, intelligence, and social status in as little time as possible, as much as possible. Anything the community can suggest that is cohesive to that, I would appreciate. 

I'd also like to mention that I am NOT trying to plan out my whole life, that would be suicide. I'm simply trying to figure out what makes sense to do right now. There are too many variables and things I don't know for me to get the perfect answer, but I'd at least like a good one, and working towards that end strikes me as an effective use of my time at this point.

All suggestions are appreciated, thank you for your time.



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