Here's a question I get a lot. "Hey, I really want to do ( some cool project or life change ), and I have it all figured out, but there's no way for me to ( overcome one single obstacle )".
I like receiving questions and am usually happy to answer them, but this one drives me up the wall. There's NO WAY? Really?
Notice that the question isn't "Hey, I really want to do ( some cool project or life change ), and I have it all figured out, but I can't figure out how to ( overcome one single obstacle ). So far I've tried ( one possible solution ) and ( another possible solution ) and ( a third possible solution )".
I've never gotten that question.
Here's how doing hard things actually works: You work on it until you hit a roadblock. Once you hit the roadblock, you try to figure out a solution. If that doesn't work, you try something else, and keep trying new things until you finally solve the problem.
Thinking isn't enough. If you think you can't solve a problem, try anyway. It's way too easy to think ourselves out of hard work. Decide that you can't conquer something only once you've come at it from every possible angle.
Most people fail in their mind well before the action ever surfaces to real life.
A common manifestation of this question is people wanting to travel but not knowing how to make money on the road. Fair enough-- making money on the internet is a bit tricky because if you know an easy way to do it you don't tell anyone, and the hard ways take time and effort.
You wouldn't believe the simple things that stop people, though. I remember one guy saying he couldn't afford the web hosting and domain name. That's about five dollars a month. You mean to tell me that you think you're going to have a successful business, but you aren't scrappy enough to find a way to come up with five bucks a month?
I find that a lot of my advice boils down to this: do something now. Just do something. Move in any direction that isn't the polar opposite of your goal. Thinking isn't a substitute for action, it's leverage for your action. Without action, thinking won't get you anywhere.
Do something now.
what's that quote.. it goes something like this: Even if you're on the right track, you'll still get run over if you just sit there.
Oh!!! I love your post. thank you. I can not sometimes force myself to get to work or start doing something. I hope you will write about it more
Agreed. Good stuff. Now can you get rid of the annoying 'sign up to get...' off? I'm signed up. I read 'em.
What would Seth Do?
You are very right! I love your posts and am trying to live the nomadic life. I really didn't know how to start or where to begin. You and Tim Ferris kinda gave me the "holy crap, I can do this" that I needed. My current struggle is what I think has been called a high quality problem. How to get to work while sitting on a beach in Zihuatanejo and the glare on the computer screen is a bit too much...
Tynan, I've been reading since nearly the begining of your blog and I think this is the single best post on this topic you've written.
This will help many people.
The most obvious advice is often the hardest for people to understand and it is always good to be reminded.
I want to disagree with the fellow above me though who said "you have to fail before you can succeed". I think if you truly fail you can never succeed. However if you learn from what didn't work then you are a step closer to success albeit on a different path than you intended.
Just my narrow world view though :)
There are way too many day-dreamers that want life handed to them on a silver platter. Unfortunately, life doesn't work that way. You have to fail before you can succeed
I wish there was a bootcamp that could just ingrain in people a bias for action. DOING is often overlooked.
My grandfather grew up in a small apartment in Lawrence, Massachusetts with fourteen older brothers and sisters. His mother stayed at home to watch after the family, and his father worked in a dry goods store.
His parents came from Italy to Ellis Island with no money. He grew up poor.
When he was ten or so he began to work at the dry goods store as well. His job was mainly to run into the rat infested basement and get tins of spaghetti to bring upstairs. He was allowed to keep a portion of the money, but most of it went to his parents.
Related to: Rationalists Should Win, Why Our Kind Can't Cooperate, Can Humanism Match Religion's Output?, Humans Are Not Automatically Strategic, Paul Graham's "Why Nerds Are Unpopular"
The "Prisoner's Dilemma" refers to a game theory problem developed in the 1950's. Two prisoners are taken and interrogated separately. If either of them confesses and betrays the other person - "defecting" - they'll receive a reduced sentence, and their partner will get a greater sentence. However, if both defect, then they'll both receive higher sentences than if neither of them confessed.
This brings the prisoner to a strange problem. The best solution individually is to defect. But if both take the individually best solution, then they'll be worst off overall. This has wide ranging implications for international relations, negotiation, politics, and many other fields.
Members of LessWrong are incredibly smart people who tend to like game theory, and debate and explore and try to understand problems like this. But, does knowing game theory actually make you more effective in real life?
I think the answer is yes, with a caveat - you need the basic social skills to implement your game theory solution. The worst-case scenario in an interrogation would be to "defect by accident" - meaning that you'd just blurt out something stupidly because you didn't think it through before speaking. This might result in you and your partner both receiving higher sentences... a very bad situation. Game theory doesn't take over until basic skill conditions are met, so that you could actually execute any plan you come up with.