I think a lot of (smart at least) people look at the opportunity of life, and at their shot at it, as an optimization problem or game they want to ‘win’ at. This is interesting to me, because I think that while there are a plethora of objective functions people choose from, most people try to maximize for things that make them feel good. In general, being happy seems to be a common thread. In a way, I am quite lucky in that sense since I feel naturally happy.
I think the reason I am naturally happy was that I had a very happy childhood, where other the kids that I liked appreciated me for who I was. I spent a year feeling unhappy, 2003, and then not really ever again. In other ways, I do feel like there were certain times, where I felt like something was wrong and then I changed myself to adapt to that, and that this may have been shortsighted in the long run. Actually, living like a kid is awesome, because your soul remains pure. In some ways, I feel like I live two lives at alternate times, and in one of them I experience the world like a kid, and reclaim the ingenuity and sense of wonder that was my birthright, and in the other, I act like an adult that understands society: realistic, cynical and driven. On the other hand, I have concluded that happiness is actually a consequence of gratefulness. Luckier people than me are miserable, because they’re not grateful.
Anyways, back to objective functions. I think a good objective function for me is freedom, autonomy and health. In real world terms, this translates into many things: Money is important because it gets me the freedom to access experiences or things that I might need or desire. So actually, I care about having a good amount of money available. However, money is obtained at first by sacrificing some direct freedom and having someone else pay you for performing a service in their favor. At some point though, one has enough money to access pretty much everything one needs beyond great luxuries, while building a solid foundation of wealth for the future (through saving and investing). It’s not really worth it to work with money in mind after that point.
On the other hand, something I particularly care about is health nowadays. That’s because I recognize that my health is in particularly bad shape.
Health is important, because we only have so much time in this world to live, and our health is what tells us how we are doing. In some sense, if we are lucky enough not to die in an accident or as the victims of tragedies of violent crime or war, the limiting factor for how long we get to live is how healthy we are. Health also allows us to function properly, when you’re healthy you’re smarter and more capable generally.
There also objective functions that I don’t have a lot of interest in. Some of these are a byproduct of certain privileges I enjoy, and some of them are simply a byproduct of the books I’ve read and the way I’ve internalized the experiences I’ve had in my life. I think the best example here is my extremely low level of risk-aversion. I must say that I do believe that in some sense this comes from having some privileges: my parents are ok financially (and would be more than okay if they didn’t have to support me or lived in a cheaper country) and I am not in danger of being a victim of violence. My version of risk taking is going to the library and try to make sense of an arcane textbook some of my friends are afraid of. I have good reason to believe this is entirely feasible too. For starters, I believe I am probably bright enough to understand anything given enough dedication and I am pretty certain that people who weren’t as lucky as me when the brain distribution round went around mastered it, with hard work, patience and commitment. In some sense, I also believe this to be especially productive for me: Challenging material forces me to develop the kinds of habits that make people truly accomplish great things. That is in fact one of the things one has to fight if one is the kind of person who skated through school or showed early signs of moving faster than peers. To accomplish great things, everyone has to go “slow and steady”. The difference is, if you have great talent, it’s hard to go slow and steady because for the most part, most things out there are completely trivial and you have no patience for them. So you have to go and find hard shit, because then you’ll actually be forced to be careful and think slowly, and then you can see the compounded benefits from this. Another thing that’s actually good for me is to actually write things down. I like doing this more and more now. Because when I write things down, I actively think about them and they become a part of me with a much higher frequency.
Another psychological thing I have some level of contempt for is arrogance and humility, or generally how people view themselves. First off the thing with humility is that yeah you’re kind of insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but you’re also probably the most important person in the universe to yourself. And with respect to other humans, you should instead know exactly where you stand. Being too humble can lead you to undersell yourself, which is actually not doing anyone but incompetent self promoters favors.
Arrogance on the other hand is kind of totally stupid. The thing to realize is that everyone sort of starts at different points in life, and has access to different opportunities. Everyone has some level of privilege. What really matters is how you use your opportunities and how you treat others. I think one should feel good about who one is as a person, and to think critically on how to maximize one’s opportunities. I know a bunch of lucky fucktards who were born into the right family and did nothing for their lives but coast on that shit, and I know people who have achieved more than what I even think about for myself that came from a shithole that I only heard of as a kid. The reason you shouldn’t compare yourself to others is that the only reason to do so is to find things you can improve on. For instance, if people intimidate you, then you have to work on your confidence and get comfortable with yourself and who you are.
One thing that I’m trying to work on actually that is psychologically bad for me is my self imposed perfectionism. It’s weird in some sense, I don’t really care about results, but I care way too much about actually knowing things these days. It’s because I sort of recently realized that I knew lots of things, but understood very few of them. That’s useless.