Although I was emotionally immature until ~25 years old, I actually believe that I was more intelligent and knowledgeable in my youth. Because I didn't have to work for a living, I could spend more time meddling in various subjects and activities. I never got particularly good at anything except programming and native plant identification, but I had more opinions on subjects with the absorbed knowledge to back up my thoughts.
These days, I have little time for anything else besides programming for a Fortune 100 company and searching for other means of supplementary income. I feel like my intelligence has been reduced to the next lowest standard deviation; the most I seem to be able to understand about anything that society deems important is at the periphery of the big picture. Good luck getting me to remember all the names of the political crooks I used to know like the back of my hand.
Worse yet, I'm not as good at my career, either. I think I was a better programmer when I was working for peanuts but doing equally complicated things.
I'm not saying that I'm brilliant, by any stretch of the imagination, but I think that people, brilliant or not, can "lose their touch" both because people simply change and because focusing on one thing for too long cuts loose the neural pathways that we took for granted when we could afford to make connections between all sorts of ideas at a time in our lives when the stakes were low. If this isn't a form of actual brain damage, it certainly seems like it to me.
And I'm not burned out, as far as I'm aware. I just suck more than I used to, and I do think that's the result of becoming a "subject idiot".
In my mid-30s, I'm much less confident about just about everything. I still have some medium to strong opinions, but I've been wrong enough times about things I was sure about that it's just hard to hold such strong views on things having only read it in a book or two.
There are a couple of differences between your experience and mine though, I think. The first is that I'm about to finish my PhD and have a great deal more expertise than I did in my early 20s. So as my expertise has grown, my certainty in many things, especially those outside my field has diminished. This is largely because I realize just how much more depth most fields of knowledge have and just how much is required to really hold an informed opinion.
I also deal with a fair number of young people, college students in my department and in other contexts. I recognize some of the same certainty and optimism I used to have at their age, and I hear some of the same opinions I used to hold on such things as vegetarianism, government systems, and economic policy. I remember having those beliefs, and talking to these young adults, it's striking just how little evidence their certainty rests on. It's worse inside my field, where students come in with their "great idea" having done no research and spent all of about 5 minutes really thinking through the ramifications of their idea, but that same certainty and optimism is there.
I often wish I was as idealistic and energetic as I was 15 years ago. But I wouldn't trade it for the naive surface-level thinking that went along with it. I like seeing the depth in the world too much, even when it shows just how shallow my thinking is in most areas, and even if it means that in most areas of life I'm forced to constantly face my uncertainty and lack of expertise.
Anyway, I hope that was at least a little bit helpful.
I'm not so bold as to propose I'm a master yet, but I've definitely hit a patch of "these problems are plaguing the industry and lots of smarter people have not managed to fully solve them yet."
What's been fascinating is I now have sufficient perspective to have thoughts and hypothesis of how to approach solving them, but the experience to have a sense of where I'll likely hit walls.
In the case of business it gets interesting because in many cases, if these problems have been solved, there's vested interests in making sure nobody else finds out how you did it, so these may actually be solved by some companies already and I'll never know.
Nor might we know when a teacher or mentor is communicating something textbook vs. some non-textbook insight or new idea.
Doesn't mean I don't hold a strong view on some subjects, experience has also solidified things that time has shown as essential.
Both these accounts fit with lower levels of testosterone with age...
If you actually have low testosterone, many doctors will prescribe supplements. It may take some work to find one who doesn't consider age-related decline to be "normal", and so not warranting treatment. And if you can't, then you'll need to shop online.
They are a content farm owned by Internet Brands and their only focus is creating content as vehicles for pharmaceutical and consumer packaged goods advertisements.
But there's a problem, if your testosterone level is too low. In my experience, that increases the risk of tendonitis. Also, it didn't seem that exercise did much good. At least, not for strength training.
But with testosterone supplementation, exercising builds muscle and reduces fat. And no tendonitis. Also better blood sugar management, and less acne. Maybe even darker hair. But clearly not more hair on my head.
On the other hand, this effect doesn't seem to be limited solely to men, so while I may have mellowed with age, I don't think that's the only thing going on here.
This doesn't seem like a bad thing.
Maybe people just realize as they grow older how complex things really are, and eventually learn not to fall for the dunning Kruger effect on everything
It's no surprise that most 22 year olds think they're brilliant. But are they actually? Sometimes, yes, but usually, no.
I think with age comes a bit more humility about one's own brilliance. Perhaps because we find the limits of our own knowledge and we also meet others that truly are brilliant in some regard, which makes us question our own brilliance.
When looking back, it's normal to take our old high self-regard as real -- and compare it to our current, more realistic self-regard. But in fact, our youthful cockiness was often unearned.
I was very opinionated and had a bunch of random knowledge to back up my opinions when I was young. I had a lot of confidence that I actually knew a lot.
Then at some point, some people started saying that I was almost right, but not quite. I didn’t have all the info. Just some. Sometimes I was just wrong. Was I getting stupider, or was I finally being called out?
I think learning you don’t have all of the answers and restraining your opinions is an important part of becoming a sensible adult.
It's fine to be opinionated if your opinion is backed up with experience. Young people by definition lack that experience.
It's not fine to be opinionated if your opinion would cause politics. Even if you're right - you're screwed.
There seem to be a few motivations for promoting someone else's (not just 22yos) self-image of being "brilliant". Ones I've seen so far:
* A teacher/mentor might offer encouragement, so that a person will keep working on learning/doing something that needs effort, rather than think they're not cut out for it. (Though it's maybe better to expressly attribute accomplishments to effort rather than innate qualities.)
* A manager might also do it for good morale/atmosphere, and even a genuine expression of appreciation for a positive contribution and effort.
* An employer, investor, or university might "recognize" and echo-chamber "brilliance", to attract people and extract work/tuition/rankings from them. (Don't you want to go where people are "brilliant" and, perhaps after hazing to reinforce that, they accept you as one?) (Also, flattery costs less to give than dollars do.)
This resonates me a lot. Ageing has made me very alergic to strong opinions, black and white approaches and naive enthusiasm.
Simple things like going to one washer and dryer vs using an apartment's laundry facility increase the amount of time and attention the weekly chore requires. Doing projects you are capable of takes just as much time as coordinating the ones you cannot
Decision fatigue is a real thing and home ownership requires a lot of decisions.
> I feel like my intelligence has been reduced to the next lowest standard deviation
I used to have this same feeling. Especially after watching my junior engineers work through stuff, both in office and online. A lot of self doubt crept up into me regarding my capabilities.
Then I started getting into stuff like arts, politics, physics, etc. I have a natural love of paintings. Reading books about paintings, learning their history, etc. to keep me occupied has helped me a lot. I can't pin point exactly, but I felt more confident. I expanded my leisure by completely stopping any TV or videos (I avoided buying a new TV when moving away from my parents house) and just reading and listening a lot about a wide variety of topics. Engineering, Astro Physics, Painting, Culture, Politics (But not sports, I hate sports). I do it just for 30 - 45 minutes a day.
Maybe it's just me, but I feel more confident. I am not even sure if that's the reason for the confidence.
Not a cover to cover thing, but it was fascinating cherry picking periods in history I was interested in and seeing the art of the time and of course visiting local museums and seeing the art works mentioned in the book.
After studying hardcore, I slowly opened up again (read: I did less and less). This partially had to do with a mild depression (self-diagnosed, take it with a grain of salt). I noticed that during this period, I simply reflected more. I asked questions about other things.
And that's how I felt smarter and more intellectual again. simply because I had the time.
I wonder how you would experience a gap year. It may be the case that your 'original intelligence' comes back.
"Geniuses" are frequently people with unusual sets of interests. This is probably not simply a reflection of their mind, but also a shaper of their thought processes.
Think of it this way: If you have ten programmers in the office and nine of them play video games as their hobby and the tenth knits as their hobby, the knitter will probably come up with very different ideas from the other nine when facing similar problems at work.
Now scale that up further. If ninety percent of all programmers have a lot of similar hobbies and interests, the ten percent with "odd" interests for their profession will be the ones with wildly different takes on any given problem at work.
The world is a really interesting place with lots of things to do, but many of the most interesting things have a high risk of not paying out, or are just inherently unprofitable, and everyone needs something to eat and a place to sleep. The more money you have, the longer your runway, and the more risks you can take on.
Want to leave your job and go overseas for three months to a bootcamp? Start a company? Start a charity? Get a PhD.? Organise a music festival? Catalog the butterflies in your area? These things are all pretty risky compared to staying at your job - if you were going to do them, you'd want to have a savings account to dip into.
This resonates for me. It wasn’t until I significantly curbed my spending habits on frivolous luxuries and learned how to save that I was able to do the things I wanted to really do.
I wish they taught basic book keeping and financial common sense stuff in school. I mean they taught us week after week in home economics how to bake and cook, surely some financial lessons there would’ve been a good idea.
He may have debts, or live in an expensive area, or maybe he just loves money and will do anything to put some extra dollars into investments on top of his primary income.
However I recently started to repair random things, mostly those which have a reputation for being the building blocks of our welfare, like water pumps, generators, old stationary engines. This provided me with the need to deeply engage in research hos stuff works and improvisation as many spare parts cant be bought new any more. Working with my hands also gives me a good feeling of having actually done something.
> I never got particularly good at anything except programming and native plant identification
What a coincidence, those used to be my points of interest too!
This is something I'd love to be good at. Any tips on where to start?
Basically I do 6am-10am twice a week for the part time job and then try to fit in a couple more hours either during an evening session or over the weekend.
The day job I probably don’t technically put in 40 hours every week, but I just make the best use of the time that I can. It’s not like you can write code for 40 hours a week anyway so I try to be prepared for what I’m going to crush “today” up front so I don’t waste much time.
Until I started doing this I would basically get bored every 18-24 months and switch jobs. Doing 2 at once seems to be enough variety to keep me interested and challenged basically all the time. But I do have to guard heavily against burn out.
That's not brain damage; it's the realization that there is a near-infinite amount to know about any given subject, and that the world can be a much more deceptive and deeper place than we're taught about in school. As you become really good at a few things, you realize the same depth exists in all subject matter, and that if you are coming to strong conclusions based on cursory knowledge, you are probably also an idiot.
You might call it wisdom...
You aren't describing the Dunning-Kruger effect. Essentially, D-K can be summarized as "people's opinion of their own relative confidence tends to be drawn toward the 70th percentile, with those whose actual competence is lower being overconfident and those whose competence is higher being underconfident."
You seem to be describing the popular misconception of D-K as if it were the actual D-K effect, that is, that the least competent were not merely the most overconfident but actually the most confident -- the idea that those who think they are very competent are actual the most incompetent. Whereas in the actual D-K effect, those who have the highest opinion of their own competence are actually even farther above average than their self-image suggests.
I think as we become subject matter experts, our standards for what it takes to have opinions advance to the point that our dilettante interests in varied subjects no longer impresses. It especially does not impress the experts of the subjects in question who are the only people really capable of holding a discussion that could impress us back.
I sense a kind of urgency to achieve career success only to be able to say I'm finished with it all so that I can go back to the mentality I had earlier in my life when I was interested in so many more things.
I feel like the extent of my problem solving and social skills has slowly been hemmed in by my hyper-focused work. Year by year I've started struggling to adapt to new situations. If I run into a challenge outside of work that is even mildly complex I have a hard time figuring out where to start. That has definitely made me think differently about my career and I'm starting to come to terms with the idea that success in a really narrow niche has some unexpected consequences.
Observation: If you stop working, you’ll still be living.
I need to ask, what is the problem here? At my fortune 500 company, I make easily enough that I don't care about money.
In a few years, I'll have my home paid off, and in a few more, enough money to retire forever.
What do you want the supplemental income for?
Quite the opposite: working a lot on one thing, usually, means deep focus and, as a result, getting deep specialized knowledge and skills. That is smart, not stupid.
But I understand why it is tempting to think that hard work is making us stupid: it is an excuse for not doing the hard work.
Alazia is the word that describe that feeling.
An argument can be made that F1 racing is the most demanding endevor a human can participate in--both mentally and physically. Most F1 champions dont even hit their peak until their early to mid 30's. I understand it's about the same for fighter pilots.
Care to share?
The argument is not mine, not at all, but rather that of many medical professionals including sports psychologists. The level of concentration required to pilot an F1 car or really any topline completion car at the limit of adhesion is Total--there is zero room for a concentration lapse. If your mind wanders even on the straights--you're probably taking an ambulance ride.
Race cars are not like street cars At all; they want to spin out--pretty much all the time. If you picture the brakes locking up as you're about to brake late; They Will every time. Part of the trick is to acknowledge what is likely to go wrong BUT Do NOT imagine it happening, that shit takes iron concentration.
Here are a lot of examples of good contributions by older mathematicians.
I think one factor is that young people tend to be hungry to achieve something and also aren't burdened with family or admin which means they can work harder.
Experience of design patterns would seem to be most relevant to senior technical roles and program architecture... which is where you see older programmers.
There's a story of a sausage business that built a new factory further north in town. A long time employee retired rather than make the longer commute.
After the move, their sausages lost some of their unique characteristics that had made them so successful. They were baffled and didn't know what went wrong.
One day, people were reminiscing about the good old days and began talking about the guy that retired. It had been his job to move the sausages from one area of the building to another.
With talking about it, they realized it had taken him like 30 minutes to do this and they had inadvertently eliminated this stage in the more efficiently designed new factory. They added a holding room or warming room and, voila, their sausages resumed having the characteristics that made them so popular.
I also love stories about bands that break up and later get back together after discovering that none of the individual musicians can capture the magic the band had. Or even stories where one particular band member rocketed to success and the others didn't.
I just love these examples of how changing conditions can cast light on who the real talent was or where the real magic was. It often isn't what people thought before the change.
The most practical thing I've found to do, in light of this problem, is to focus on developing better feedback: success and failure signals for each problem that you can use to summarize how you are doing. Then the skill/luck question becomes less reliant on external comparison and more on inner growth - hence more in control, more skill-driven.
But as a society our measures are mostly external. If someone succeeds, that's all we see.
How I interpret this it that working hard increases your skills. If you are more skillful you are more able to take advantage of lucky situations you have. We all have lucky situations, some more than others (we can even say privilege plays a large role here). But here's the thing, if you don't have the skills to take advantage of these situations then they are useless.
Let's make up an egregious example. Let's say you are working on battery powered rockets that use AI. If you one day meet Elon Musk at your local grocery store and somehow strike up a conversation then he's probably going to be very interested in you and your background. He'll probably try to keep in contact with you and maybe offer you a job. Now let's consider without the skill. Well you met Elon Musk which is pretty cool, but you're probably not going to get a job.
It isn't so much luck vs skill, but the combination of the two. I would be willing to bet that there is not a single millionaire (yes, that low) that can't chalk up a significant portion of their wealth to something that others would consider luck. Such as family/friend's connections, stumbling into a situation, taking jobs that lead to other jobs in the right way, etc (this is why the specific wording of the previous sentence. Because most don't notice these kinds of things and when looking from the inside we notice the skill part and not the luck. Because we did in fact work hard, and you know... Human psychology)
But let's assume it is true (which I don't think it is). Is it mentally healthy to go around saying "well fuck it, I'm just this way because I was born this way".
I do believe you can change yourself. Neurochemistry definitely plays a role in your ability to (luck). But having this defeatist mentality means you'll never attempt it. I would even argue that this comment should hint at some evolutionary benefit of getting down trodden.
I don't see what the value in denying free will is. Fascinating sophomore debate? Yes. Gonna help you survive and thrive on this planet? No.
If we find free will exists, well we continue with the way we have been going. If we find that it doesn't, well we don't change anything because we don't have free will. (Honestly I believe there is middle ground to this question. That some people can exert more free will than others but that you can also train this behavior. But that's another discussion. If this is true, I do find this a meaningful answer though)
There's also this Bertrand Russell quote:
"As against solipsism it is to be said, in the first place, that it is psychologically impossible to believe, and is rejected in fact even by those who mean to accept it. I once received a letter from an eminent logician, Mrs. Christine Ladd-Franklin, saying that she was a solipsist, and was surprised that there were no others. Coming from a logician and a solipsist, her surprise surprised me."
The problem with religion comes when it’s used as a justification for horrible acts—just like one might use the lack of free will to justify horrible acts.
If the alternative is to commit suicide since you feel like such a loser and the help people give you is the advice "stop being so lazy!", then yes.
But if someone is just a monster who makes evil decisions, then they can simply be disposed of like trash. They aren't like me, I make good decisions.
Maybe you have abusive parents. If you can imagine that if you'd had exactly their DNA and life experiences, you too would be abusive. This is helpful in forgiving them, which is an important part of recovery. Protect yourself from future damage, but allow yourself to move on.
Of course in practical terms this means I find it useful to pretend as if I have free will but others do not.
I don't believe you can change much. You can force yourself to behave differently, but at a cost of extra effort and suffering.
Instead of personality change, I think the environment changes, and we express different psychological features depending on the situation. There are people/situations that bring out the best in us, and the opposite. Who we are depends on where we are, and with who we are interacting.
And of course with more experience comes less over-confidence. We change our values in light of our past experience.
Another thing is risk. The more you have to lose the less you want to risk it. When you have invested a lot in a family or career, you change your values in order to minimise risk.
So I think we are not changing our personality but it reflects differently because our situation has changed.
This realisation helped me forgive myself of the torture of changing my personality, instead I seek a situation where the better characteristics of my personality shine. I have always been myself even though externally I changed.
There's debate as to if free will exists at all. If the future is exactly determined (at the beginning of the universe), then nothing we do is a choice, and no one is to blame, really.
The human mind is very, very malleable. Growth and change are not just possible but inevitable.
If you take one abstraction back from any decision, it's easy to see that you have no choice whatsoever. Let's imagine I ask you to think of a random person at your school. If you're like most people, several options will come into your conscious mind. Then you will sort of settle on one of those that came into your conscious mind. But the ones who entered your conscious mind are not all of the people you knew at school. At what point did you choose which ones would enter your mind and which ones would not? Obviously, you did not consciously control this. And we know from studies that you almost certainly don't know the real reason why you chose the one person you ultimately selected. The mind comes up with a justification post-hoc. So in this way, you can't even control the most trivial decisions in your life, because you can't control which options even enter your conscious mind.
This can be scary at a small scale like a foosball table. Some of the league players I play with have an amazing ability to catch and control the ball on their 3 or 5. If the ball moves somewhere into the area of their 3, they'll have it - and this enables them to utilize their shooting technique. And if they miss a shot, they'll usually be able to re-catch the ball if the keeper can't keep it, so they get more chances to score. A less skilled player either doesn't catch the ball in the first place, or loses it after the first shot.
And edges like that are even worse in games with a snowballing effect, like dominion. Getting the right 4/3 or 5/2 split on your first 2 hands is hard luck. However, choosing the right 2 cards to initially get with that is skill and will massively impact the course of the game.
You do need opportunities, and you can't always make your own opportunities. However, you can work on your ability to utilize opportunities.
Luck is where opportunity meets preparation.
Someone born in China in 1860 who saved diligently, best case, would've lost it all in the Xinhai Revolution, Chinese Civil War, Sino-Japanese War, or Communist takeover. Worst case, they and their whole family is dead. Ditto Russia over the same time period, Vietnam in 1900, a plantation owner born in South Carolina in 1800, a Jew in Austria in 1870, etc.
For that matter, that 70-year-old American isn't out of the woods yet: there's a looming demographic time bomb that's going to hit America in the early 2020s, and it's by no guarantee that they'll remain millionaires.
The notion of external measures or what is readily apparent, is also why 'luck' feels like a simplistic and incorrect explanation for success, in my experience. A lot of people who are successful create their own luck (or rather, increase the probability for their personal successes). They set themselves up to be successful despite variability and randomness, and despite differences in natural talent relative to competition. They focus on the right things, they push themselves harder than others think possible, etc.
Put another way, they make trade-offs in life that result in success. As to what they give up...it depends on the person and their circumstances, but very often they are giving up peace of mind, free time (leisure), relationships, happiness, and sometimes even their health. But delayed gratification and long-term focus (long-term trading-off) seem like key elements to success. I don't view that as just luck.
The anecdote of the fund manager who was less successful in China from the article stood out to me as logically flawed. This later failure in a different time, a different market, does not mean the person's prior success was due to mere luck. The world has changed a lot (for example advent of the Internet and digital trading) and China is also a very different place. It could be simply that this person was no longer in a position where they've made the right trade-offs to be relatively competitive in the new set of circumstances years after their "prime". And it might even be a conscious choice - it is easier to make some trade-offs when you are younger (better health, more energy, lack of familial obligations, etc.) and as we get older and our priorities change, we're less likely to make some of those trade-offs (not always, but typically). But I don't think it makes logical sense to cast prior success as luck due to later failure - the causality there is spurious, at best.
This notion also tends to ignore the people that can fail upwards: They reach positions or become managers that they're not at all qualified at, but end up doing well through a few lucky rolls of the dice. I'm sure we'd all like to say that eventually this comes back around to bite them in the rear, but unfortunately that would imply a just world fallacy.
Anecdotally, my least successful friends and acquaintances are those who do not work hard and blame their lack of success on bad luck.
luck = winning the Lotto
Need the ticket though.
But if you want to knock over a cup across the world, or become rich overnight, this is a very complex feedback loop, so you exercise less agency (therefore more luck).
There once was a man that said, though
It seems like I know that I know,
What I'd like to see
Is the 'I' that sees me
When I know that I know that I know
Given enough time, even the survivors die... I worked at a hedge fund in 2008 that was leveraged like 40 to 1 when the market tanked. Nearly blew up, but managed to stay afloat. 3 years earlier we had cannibalized another fund that couldn't make their margin call. Bought about 9 Billion in assets for pennies on the dollar.
Interesting description here!
As I’ve gone through my 30s and 40s, I’ve been surprised at how many of my friends have suffered some kind of burnout. In fact, between the ages of 15 and 45, I would say that everyone I know personally has had at least one bad year. Back when I was in school, it seemed like some people were reliably happy, and other people were reliably depressed. And yes, many of those personality traits turned out to be consistent over several decades. But it was a surprise to realize that even the happiest people could fall into a dark spot. Some people are highly resilient, but no one is infinitely resilient.
Depression can end your career, end your marriage, and end your life. But long before most people find themselves facing a serious depression, they typically pass through an earlier stage, more mild and more subtle. What if we could all catch ourselves at that earlier stage?
I’m talking about burnout. Perhaps we can think of it as the mildest form of depression, or a mid-point between true mental health and outright depression. How do we identify something so subtle? Specific anecdotes are useful, because people need to be able to hear a story similar to what they are going through.
The cure for burn out is to cut out any activities that do not bring personal joy and satisfaction. (My burn-out was cured by a few months off pursuing my hobbies. Yes, I was lucky to have that option.) The thing about depression is that nothing brings joy or satisfaction. Burn-out and depression are orthogonal. But IMO you must cure depression first, before trying to address burn out, if both are present.
That, and giving yourself a series of small tasks, each of which you can complete easily. That feeling of satisfaction that you obtain by completing these small tasks quickly turns into your emotional ability to complete bigger and bigger tasks, and before you know it, you're back on the horse. It's amazing how effective this is, it's been documented here before too. I'll see if I can dig out where I first read this.
He recently told me that every time he feels like he's losing his motivation and starts to fall into negativity, he goes to the kitchen and does the dishes.
He considers this time to be part of his work day.
By the time he has washed the dishes, the sense of accomplishment is back.
What I take from this anecdote is that the brain does not distinguish that washing something is not part of building a web application. It is simply content to have cleaned multiple objects and then have completed a complex task.
I've also assumed that this was the moral of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance though I've never read it.
(I have my own rituals.)
 Not mentioned on the Wikipedia page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japanese_rock_garden
When I'm at the point of defenestrating the computer, I tidy up the flotsam and jetsam that accumulates in any workspace, once everything is back in order I grab a coffee and carry on.
Never ceases to amaze me how often a simple solution to a frustrating problem occurs midway down the stairs with a box of empty amazon packaging or whatever.
For me, learning to delegate was a battle against my perfectionist tendencies. "But that's not they way I would have done it." Yup. When you delegate, people do it their way. To me the key was learning to parse out what is it that I care deeply about, and what not so much. Be sure the things you care deeply about are in the spec, and let go of the things that are not so important.
Make time for yourself. I am a ham radio operator, so for me spending a few days in the sun butchering a pile of aluminum tube to make antennas cures many ills. That is unlikely to be a universal prescription -- find yours.
Saying "no" is a forgotten method of self-preservation.
Similar to what the other user mentioned, I get moving again by focusing on the easy tasks to feel productive again. I make a simple text file with everything I need to do, sorted by month, and each month sorted with the easiest to hardest tasks.
I write every single thing on my mind. For example, I need to order something online, so that gets added to the list. I have a wedding to attend this month and need a new white shirt, that gets added to the list. I need to wish someone happy birthday next week, so I'll add that to the list. Do I need to book a haircut appointment? On the list it goes. Everything goes on the list. It really helps to clear my mind when I don't have to remember these things.
Then, when I start my day, it's not an overwhelming number of thoughts. I look at the list for this month, and I just choose a task I'm in the mood to finish. Do I want to check off a few easy ones? Do I have the entire day to myself and I can focus on a more complex one? If I'm going to the city, then I can take care of all the ones located downtown.
In short, write everything down, start checking things off the list.
I do this by keeping my list on a small paper (A6) in my notebook. When the page is full, I transfer over only the incomplete tasks that are still relevant over to a new page. Often also refining their scope. This chance of default from 'keep' to 'not keep' has had large impact on how many (useless) tasks I drop, and the associated mental burden.
There's a mental pressure that results from having a number of things on the go at once, and writing each thing down relieves that pressure, probably in a similar way to the aforementioned ticking off of simple tasks.
Of course burnout and depression can coincide but I would guess that in that case it is more likely to just be misattributed depression. I don't want to gatekeep depression but I don't think working a lot on something you dislike and consequently needing a break or to move on to working on something else (what I understand to be burnout) is depression. For example I hate cleaning things, both household cleaning and dishes, so if I were to force myself to clean 60 hours a week I would quickly feel burnt out but I wouldn't really be depressed.
I've noticed that I can get my brain back on the right track by completing a few tasks that have a high probability of success and a clearer link between effort and reward.
I devised this plan on the basis that working for nothing seemed to be the crucial factor.
Failure is definitely not a requirement. I was very successful in my last career. I was working 60 hours at the bare minimum with non-stressful things in stressful deadlines. I was akin to a supervisor with a great team in my corner. Performance at my level and below was never an issue, and every single one of my juniors was 100% dependable.
Management above me - in spite of one director who kicked ass at everything - and the culture in general sucked. I was tired of excelling at a place where no one valued my contributions. Not in a, "give me money and awards" way, but in a "can you not treat your most valuable employees like complete dirt?"
As far as burnout, I always felt like getting a few small wins was quite beneficial for preventing it. For example, as a programmer, depending on a level of burnout, I might:
- Fix a small bug
- Learn / setup up a new framework (shout-out to all JS frameworks out there -- you help us prevent burnout!)
- Do a self-contained project that you can release in a few days
- in severe cases Do some random shit completely not related to programming until you miss it and naturally come back because it's fun again.
But if everything came easy to you from the start you missed out on working through tough problems. You didn't develop the tenacity to push through. So by time you do start seeing the harder problems you start failing and the failures hit you harder. Without the skill to keep pushing yourself through failure you just kinda give up sooner.
So now I have to catch up with Python, C# and other languages. I've been sick from the stress of a toxic environment at work and had to go on short term disability and rest. I didn't become stupid or lose my touch or get soft in the head. I can still program VB 6.0 just that nobody wants those skills anymore.
"What is the difference that make the difference?"
These are my general observations:
When you do not understand what the important variables are, most often than not, you end up clueless.
Humans are not good with too much complexity. When too many variables are playing a role, it is usually not clear what dominates.
Being a generalist helps understanding. To figure out what is going on, a generalist mindset helps because you can find clues from other domains.
Over generalization is the root of all evils. People usually dramatically fail when they think the situation is the same of one they observed in the past but it is in reality VERY different. This happens because they are looking at variables they observed in the past situation that are similar. But they are not seeing or underestimate other variables that dominate the new situation.
In general, even when you think you got it, it is useful to test a few times (assuming you can) to find out, if you really got it right.
Good argument for the estate tax, by the way.
Meditation, time, absence of urgency, replacement of contentment with a new passion/spark, nootropics, nutrition, less stress, compatible environment, etc..
But part of the death of genius is certainly in rooted in the person. A number of pitfalls in that direction to which we can relate. I think a major one is believing in your own hype, decreasing your ability to reject bad ideas. Also success can dim the the fire inside that had something to prove, and by caring less, settle for less. Also, for certain types of genius, it may have depended on peak working memory, and that declines with age. Last, I think knowledge of the world dims certain types of genius. I think melodic genius is particularly vulnerable to having heard and played too much music previously. Patterns get built up in your mind, and when trying to write music, at least for me, not only am I more likely to travel down the same worn melodic paths, but if I do discover some interesting turn of melodic phrase, I am more likely to recall some bit of music that I've heard, and go "ahh.. its one of these" and suddenly its hard for it to take its own path, and you are comparing it to what was written before....which kinda kills a moment of inspiration.
> Perhaps we do. Michael Blastland’s recent book, The Hidden Half, argues that much of the variation we see in the world around us is essentially mysterious. Mr Blastland’s opening example is the marmorkrebs, a kind of crayfish that reproduces parthenogenetically — that is, marmorkrebs lay eggs without mating and those eggs develop into clones of their mothers.
Blastland is a very passionate speaker too. RSA talk on the subject:
Risk, Chance and Choice - Michael Blastland and David Spiegelhalter: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=INw0O5F-yWc
There's lots of "brilliant" worship in the mainstream and especially among techies. We strive to be geniuses too, never mind one falls and another replaces him. And luck? That's the opposite of what we want to believe.
But to be fair, outlier success in many fields is rarely possible without some initial high level of skill and knowledge in the first place.
> More likely it is “regression to the mean”, or in simple terms, a return to business as usual.
This phenomenon is pretty easily explained. People make the cover of SI when they've peaked or just hit a major accomplishment. It's extremely unlikely that they'll do anything but regress.
Additionally, until recently there were 50 SI covers per year. Once we're aware of the "SI Jinx", we remember the ones where it comes true and ignore the many, many, many issues where it doesn't.
Few people make the cover of Sports Illustrated after a run of mediocre luck. They appear after things have been going well, and if the good luck fails to hold then it seems like the SI jinx. More likely it is “regression to the mean”, or in simple terms, a return to business as usual.
> Please don't comment on whether someone read an article.
Wasn't Einstein 40 years older than Feynman? He did physics PLUS politics, including the letter to Roosevelt about the bomb. Even at the challenger investigation Feynman mostly stuck to science.
I think Einstein's ability to be interdependent made him a little more brilliant in my eyes. (along with the ability to reflect light)
Past performance can often predict future success that's why geniuses often are serial geniuses, sometimes in more fields than one. But we often forget that before they became known as geniuses they passed through a string of failures as is necessary. Im not sure if it's a problem with the geniuses themselves, or a problem of perception from our side, as we become intolerant to their failures.
Like, at all.
That’s just classic gambler fallacy.
If you want an example of reverse gambler fallacy, see here - https://news.ycombinator.com/reply?id=20231181&goto=threads%...
There the author says “10k heads have shown up, so 10k tails are waiting to show up”
which is equally rubbish.
There’s this weird thing where people on HN keep falling prey to Gambler’s fallacy. Maybe it’s like a programmer’s blind spot ?
If you have a bunch of people tossing dice and stopping when they roll a 1, only ~1/6 will succeed immediately. Most people will take a few tries; a few will take many tries; there's a nonzero chance you will wait forever without a success.
That's not to say that a success gets more likely with time (the Gambler's Fallacy) but on the whole, you'd expect most successes to have some prior failures, unless the dice are rigged.
if success means to roll a 1, and anything else is a failure, you will on average roll the die 6 times before you succeed. E(x) = 1/p for a geometric with p = 1/6. your variance is q/p^2, so 30.
so then, my rational decision as an investor is to quit rolling the die after 17 rolls ( mu + 2 sd = 6 + 2*sqrt(30) = 17 ). I wouldn’t wait until heat death of universe.
> Maybe it’s like a programmer’s blind spot ?
Nah this must come from entrepreneurs , which is a lot more like gambling than science etc.
If you look at the original measurements, they are mostly explainable on that basis. The usual claim that incompetents think they know better than experts doesn't show up in those results, and they don't report that.
That's not to say there aren't people who are really delusional -- Trump exists -- but it's not a rule.
It's not reversion to the mean, exactly, because there's no time series involved, but similar statistical laws operate.
If there's a real "effect", meriting a name, it's that incompetents are even bad at identifying the average, and miss, often thinking they are above average just because they don't really even understand what average means.
They cited this in their actual results.