TSR #6: Strength and Weaknesspost by Hazard · 2017-12-19T22:23:57.473Z · LW · GW · None comments
**This is part of a series of posts where I call out some ideas from the latest edition of The Strategic Review (written by Sebastian Marshall), and give some prompts and questions that I think people might find useful to answer. I include a summary of the most recent edition, but it's not a replacement for reading the actual article. Sebastian is an excellent writer, and your life will be full of sadness if you don't read his piece. The link is below.
Background Ops #6: Strength and Weakness
- Soviet Marshal Zhukov had his work cut out for him, and did a pretty stellar job.
- Having a clear understanding of your strengths and weakness gives insight into how to design your ops.
- Ways ops (operations) typically fail:
- They aren’t playing to your strengths
- Don’t acknowledge/mitigate weakness
- Not understanding your s and w
- You created a “platonic” ops that “should” work but doesn’t
- “A commander must not be afraid of fighting under unfavourable circumstances.”
- When looking to develop and install operations successfully, things typically don’t change quickly, but they do change. You should periodically re-assess where you’re at, so you don’t fail to capitalize on gains or mitigate emerging weaknesses.
- Things have to actually work, so make sure you’re dealing with the non ideal aspects of your current situation.
It’s really useful to see examples of someone using principles in action. Reading about General Zhukov expertly navigating the strengths and weaknesses of the Soviets and Nazis is a great way to learn. Similarly, I really like Yudkowsky's coming of age story in the sequences. Observing the steps of someone’s mind as they make mistakes or do things well is very informative.
I like the points Sebastian has made about reasons operations often fail, and I think it gives a decent guide on how to kick off a post mortem on plans and ops that you’ve made which haven't worked out.
Most often, my ops fail because I don’t sufficiently break down the task I’m trying to operationalize. I’ve noticed that the more granular an ops is, the easier it is to not give into resistance in the moment. It’s easier for me to “take off the covers, swing my legs down, turn off the alarm that is set to ring at the same time everyday without me having to reset it” than it is to “wake up on time”. This sort of failure mode seems to be subset of “platonic ops that can’t handle the real world”.
Over the summer I made a new system for keeping goals and intentions in mind for my weekly planning. That system was used approximately zero times. Looking back, I see that even thought I had designed the system intending it to “operationalize” my planning, it was basically something that could only run on a constant input of willpower. No good. I’m leaning more and more towards thinking that willpower is almost never the answer to, “How should I make sure this gets done?”
I also really like the point Sebastian made about having to continually reasses the terrain. It’s easy for changes in the terrain to make your old plan obsolete, and you have to switch gears if you want to achieve what you’re after.
So, here are some useful questions to find answers to:
- What are ops you’ve tried that have failed in the past because they were too complicated or unrealistic? Have you iterated on them since?
- Are there any habits or ops you’re currently engaged in which might need to be updated based on the fact that the terrain has changed?
- Are the atomic components of your ops basic enough as to withstand the bad times? Do you need to further break down actions into smaller pieces?
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