Introspect Yourself

The most important skill you can develop is an innate sense of curiosity about yourself. Once you get in the habit of constantly introspecting, you’ll appreciate both good and bad experiences. There are two areas I’d like to discuss: introspecting about interactions with others, and with yourself.

Others

Your life goal should be not to win any particular game, rather to win the sum of all games. To do that you need to be good at collaborating with others. You can’t be overly abrasive, or you’ll never be invited back to the group. You can’t be catatonic, otherwise you’ll never produce anything.

When you interact with your environment you create information exhaust. You say things. People form opinions about what you said. Some people aren’t sensitive to the reactions of others. This is a terrible error. They’re dropping valuable “training data” on the ground. If you don’t retrain your model based on input from the crowd, you’ll never converge on truth. You’ll be one of those people. That are too loud. Or not loud enough. Society won’t invite you back for further opportunities to collaborate because they’ll predict you won’t contribute.

If you want to continually be invited back to play, become an enjoyable player to be around.

Yourself

You probably have both long and short term goals you want to accomplish. Some days you feel good. You’re clear headed. You find yourself making good progress. Some days suck. We all have those. The trick is to treat every day as a learning opportunity. If you don’t feel productive this afternoon, ask yourself — why not? What did you do wrong? Did you have a big lunch? Did someone say something annoying to you? Did you get some bad news?

Make sure you learn from success, not just failure. What are the common factors that lead to a really good day? Good sleep? Good weather? If weather is a factor, should you be moving with a place that has more sun? Etc.

One important note is environmental factors occasionally have a delayed feedback loop. For example, I’ve found that my diet affects my mood with a ~96 hour delay. Make sure to have a wide enough window for data collection.

Another factor that has helped me a lot is meditation. Meditating is like installing gdb in your brain. It allows you to inspect values in the moment — and even change them — instead of just letting your code (mind) run into errors.

I now find myself “scoring” my day every night, attempting to dissect what went well and what didn’t. I’m obsessed with this idea because I’ve seen the improvements in myself. I expect if you try to force the habit for a few weeks, you will to. And then you’ll get addicted to self-improvement.

Taking it too far

An extreme form of self-improvement is what some call having a “chip on your shoulder”. I suffer from this. I have a very self-critical mental monologue. I ran the New York Marathon. As I crossed the finish line, my first thought was: “I should have run faster”. I always thinking that I should have done that thing better.

This is a dangerous propellant. It pushes me. But left unchecked, it means I’m rarely happy. If you suffer from this trait as well, please force yourself to celebrate success. You’re likely underinvesting in creating memories that will bring you joy to look back on. When something good happens, take a moment to celebrate. Do something weird and fun, so that you’ll remember it. Add a room in your memory palace. Lastly, make sure to surround yourself by supportive friends and family (environment), who will help relax that thought pattern.