I like the Bell Curve. It's one of those universal principles that can be applied in millions of different ways throughout your life to help make sense of things. Along with the bell curve, I think there's another graph we should all internalize and use to understand life: the jagged upwards line.
Just as the Bell Curve describes distributions, the jagged upwards line describes forward progress. And just as the standard deviation can vary in width and amplitude, the jagged upwards line varies in it's jaggedness and its slope.
When we imagine our path to reach a goal, we see a non-jagged line, gently sloping up and to the right, showing how as we move step by step, we'll get closer and closer to our goal. But that's not how things really work. What happens when we actually start working towards our goal and we hit a setback? We decide we must not be on that smooth straight line afterwards, and we get discouraged. Sometimes we give up.
It's important to understand that progress always happens on a jagged line, and that to get to your goal you must follow that line. That means that you must endure setbacks, and you must temper yourself during those short but ephemeral bursts upwards. You must remain steady, because your path is anything but steady.
My poker winnings follow the jagged upwards curve. On those days where I make a thousand dollars in an hour, I have to remind myself that they players aren't that bad, and I'm not that good. I'm just on my path, and it bursts upwards sometimes. A couple months ago I sat down at a table and lost $750 in less than an hour and a half. I didn't quit and I didn't get upset, though, because I knew that the dip was just part of my path.
More abstract pursuits in life follow the jagged upward line. If you approach one hundred girls in the course of a few months, the first one may go better than the last one, but the last ten will almost certainly have averaged to be better than the first ten. Some days you'll feel like Cassanova's long lost twin, and others you'll feel like Gollum's long lost twin. But over the course of those hundred approaches, you'll get better at talking to women.
Understanding variance is important because it's a part of life. If you're scared of variance, then you're scared of life itself. You won't take the risks necessary to reach your goals, and you won't develop the character of someone who has reached their peaks and been humbled as they slid from them to the valleys. You won't enjoy the luxury of seeing that jagged but steady climb as you look examine the path you've walked.
Heading to Japan next week. If you'll be there in early April and are interested in a meetup, let me know...
"If you're scared of _______, then you're scared of life itself." Fill in the blank, students of life. Possibilities: variance, pain, defeat, rejection, confusion, loss, success, love, obstacles, difficulties, injustice, imbalance, chaos, tumult, death. Feel free to pick anything from this list or any other list that you truly believe could fit well in that blank. Then comment. Make a list of your own choice of possibilities that you add here. Say what you like about Japan instead, maybe. You are too silent today, wherever you are.
Good post, Tynan.
So, there's no way to see who's passing out minus ones here. I wish I knew who could possibly object to either of the first two comments here, but right now they both have minus ones. And where is the legion of Tynan fans who normally weigh in here? I can't believe they've all gotten jobs in the last 2 weeks. Perhaps they've all been so inspired by recent posts here as to have 1)Stayed up all night playing poker, or 2)Begun to try to pick up as many women as possible within the shortest amount of time or,3)Are all on board a flight to Japan as I type this. I need to get back to work. Sayonara.
This is one of my favorites of your posts in a while, mostly because I definitely feel like I'm on a downward slope right now, and this is a great reminder. Thank you!
This is one of those posts that pack a lot of meaning into something very simple. It's great advice for young(er) people, and by that, I mean anyone in their early to late twenties. I wish I had realized as a child that life doesn't move in the smooth upward line----It would have saved me a lot of stress!
Thanks for the post : ) My Mom was famous for quoting the expression ' taking one step forward and two steps back' and it was always viewed as a negative, but when combined with your jagged line theory I can view it now as something just organic. Thanks again! : )
Tynan, could you give us your opinion on Earth Runner Quantam & Ultralite sandals? I believe you used the Quantum on your Peru trip, but I haven't seen you post your thoughts on them anywhere. I was trying to decide which model to get for everyday use.
Nice drawing! :) What's interesting is our innate desire to try to control nature and force it into a straight line. We see this with government GDP's, corporate pay raises, inflation, schooling.
I live in Sendai, northern Japan, and would be very interested in meeting up if schedules coincide. Please keep us posted as to your plans!
Nice, thanks for this. If I may add that sometimes the line of best fit will start off curving upwards until it reaches a steep slope and then tail off after a while, tending towards a plateau. Sometimes big jumps in results are a symptom of your overall progress starting to accelerate.
When you're doing something hard, the effort curve looks something like a bell curve. At first, as you're dabbling in it, you don't put in much effort. Then it progressively gets harder and harder until you finally reach that peak. That's when you "make it" and things start to get a little easier. But we don't always make it to that peak. Sometimes, often, we give up.
Polyphasic sleep was brutally difficult. I tried three times to get on the schedule. The first two times I gave up on day five because it was just too hard and there was no end in sight. Then Steve Pavlina got on the schedule. He announced that on day six it gets easy. I tried again, and sure enough on day six it got easy. It's not that it took no effort after day six, but when the effort required is less and less each day, it's really easy to persevere When it's harder every day, well, that's a different story.
Pickup was like tights, too. At first it was murderously difficult to get a girl to even talk to me. It was painful and showed no signs of getting easier. I stuck through it somehow, and I still remember the day I realized it had gotten easier. I was talking to a friend and told him that pretty much every girl I talked to those days would be attracted to me in some capacity. It struck me that I could have never said that before, and that I had in fact reached that peak of effort and passed it.
It's like climbing a really densely fogged mountain. You have a rough idea of how far you've come, you can see how difficult the patch you're working on is, but you can only have the vaguest idea of where the top is. Maybe it's a day away, maybe it's a year away.
I have been a fool.
In retrospect, my life up until this day would have looked extremely different from the day I was 16.
I have not immersed myself in what I love. Not at all.
I love communes. I love weed. I love polyamorous people. I love yoga. I love travel.