Aside: I hate to be a grammarian but the paragraph with four em dashes across two sentences really did my head in. Generally I expect them to set off parentheticals and I had no clue if I was supposed to place the parentheses across the sentences.
The author mentions that he tends to take initiative even when ideas are only half baked, and you can see it in his post. It feels rough and loose, like the ideas haven't been polished to perfection yet. There is no grand claim here.
I appreciate that all of the answers aren't served up on a silver platter and we're left to do with these theories what we will. It's raw and refreshing and I find it very engaging.
Very meta... someone should do it :)
When no one wants to make a suggestion, propose the worst possible one you can come up with. People will race to improve it because, while they don't know what they want, they know it's not THAT.
Plus their idea can't be worse than mine. So I've stolen all the embarrassment and disdain for myself.
And watch in horror when everyone agrees to it because nobody cares as much as you do.
"Write the whole thing in 1960s-era COBOL? Eh, fine, no problem. Good idea, bhntr3."
Same here. That's why I find it interesting. Some half baked ideas that feel accurate and useful. No big theory about life. Perfect blog post.
Does a post have to be going somewhere to be interesting and fun?
If a post is going somewhere, do you have to be able to see where that is in order to find it interesting and fun?
Basic premise is how we fall into transactional games in social settings (talking about weather, sports, etc) and acknowledging that can help break out of that into more interesting conversation.
I was curious to read something along the lines of thinking the OP was musing on, but couldn't phrase it in a way that would help me find it. And neither did i suspect that it was an actual thing people wrote about, as opposed to just me having some random thoughts and wishing someone wrote about those. Reading the description of that book makes me believe that you absolutely nailed it with that recommendation.
I don't have much info on this, but I brought it up to my mom who mentioned that the book had a period of popularity before my time, but had apparently been debunked as too rudimentary. I'm convinced that the framework is still relevant despite that, although I typically trust my mom's intuition on people's behind the scenes incentives -- she's proven to have theories about people that take months to play out but end up playing out.
All mothers have that - but they're different theories...
This sounds like a reference to stoic philosophy (of which I am not a fan), but I mean, don’t phobias exist, and don’t degrees of intensity exist so that it’s actually impossible to resist a trigger?
I personally used to be really scared of roaches, too, and I got over it not because I learned to control the fear itself, but because I thought about roaches differently (something along the lines of considering them weak). There is no controlling that fear because fear in this context is intense—I still get jerky sometimes when a cockroach shows up by surprise, or when there’s more than one of them, or worst of all, when they actually fly. I can usually avoid making a scene when there’s room to run somewhere else or if there’s an insect spray nearby, but stuck in a room with these triggers? I might go insane.
The conclusion that the women screamed because they’re not in control is not only lazy and prejudiced, it’s also an arrogant epistemological claim on something that the author doesn’t actually know, which is whether the fear or disgust of roaches is simply more intense for other people.
“It's not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters”
In your case the cockroach didn’t change, you found a different way to frame the cockroach. In turn you react to it differently.
I originally had a hard time with this idea because people have used this “your response is your responsibility” excuse when being unkind to me, but the thing is, this mode of thinking doesn’t mean no one can hurt you and no one should be accountable for being unkind. It just means at the end of the day, you won’t benefit from dwelling on it and practicing seeking solutions instead is purely beneficial.
Once I separated the idea from the strict context of responses to what people did to me but anything the world could throw at me, be it bad weather or getting a great sleep or being given a gift or tripping myself down stairs, I realized it’s quite easy to apply and think about. It made a lot more sense without the loaded emotional, interpersonal context overlaid.
I figured I’d externalize this in case it helps anyone else, not trying to over-explain simple concepts to people :)
Rationally I understand that me feeling bad and being resentful only has a negative effect on the situation and other people, but it's hard to break out of the spiral.
TL;DR What you wrote helped me out. Thanks.
Don't ever doubt that, it's incredibly hard. But it's something that deserves the hard work it takes to get out of it, I think. I've been realizing a lot of these kinds of challenges in life demand a lot from us, and it can be so daunting, but the reward of taking on that challenge is really immense. Imagine learning to get out of the spiral early - that one day you can just say no and focus on better things. You absolutely could, I bet.
> What you wrote helped me out. Thanks.
Thanks for saying so, that really makes my day.
I've had a similar experience and something that caught me by surprise was this technique called fear setting. I thought it was the cheesiest nonsense ever, but through some turn of events I ended up trying it. I applied it to a problem like what you're describing one day and ended up just writing, in the plainest, simplest, most honest terms why I fell into so much resentment. I'm sure it's different for both of us, but the experience was a revelation. Not all negative emotions are driven by fear, but the resentment certainly was in my case. So I wrote out why, what it does to me, what I can do to address that.
The key discovery was a sort of nested fear. It was like the immediate issue wasn't the real fear, or the thing driving my resentment. This should have been obvious I guess, because the superficial problems never justified the amount of resentment. No, ultimately I was afraid of addressing the superficial problem; the broad implications, the confrontation, the unknowns. I kept those tucked away so well and used that resentment to distract and convince myself that the REAL problem was the superficial once. It was really bizarre to realize that once I stopped to dig, the real fear and discomfort was right under the surface all along. Out of sight and out of mind, I guess.
Writing it out felt really stupid the first time. Like, I must know all of this already - why do I need to write it down? It's sort of like rubber ducking a problem though. You put it out there in plain sight and just go "OH... Oh.", and there it is. Now what do you do with it?
Tim Ferris talks a lot about fear setting. I don't know much about him, but he makes some sense on this topic. https://tim.blog/2017/05/15/fear-setting/
My experience with stoicism so far has been fairly different, but it might be because I'm cherry picking things I like. One thing I have enjoyed about it though is how objective it seems rather than subjective. I have a feeling if I delve more into modern stoicism I'll find more of what you're talking about.
> concepts of control
This one seems to me to be something like:
1. Anything external is out of your control
2. Anything internal is in the realm of possibility to control if you're healthy and willing
3. Having the faculties to control yourself is a gift/incredibly fortunate, and to hone that ability is very virtuous
If you lack control it's either because a) you're unable to due to some affliction like mental disability or sickness (not lacking virtue) or b) you don't practice enough (lacking virtue). I suppose there's room for a c) both a and b, too. This is where you're right - this becomes very subjective. There's a blurry, blurry line between hard, limiting disabilities and resolvable illness. I would say though that each of us can only do our best, and believe others are also doing their best. To split hairs on why people act the way they do would be pointless. Instead we should focus on supporting them to do better if they evidently need the help.
> create too many discussions that aren’t worth having
This has seemed to be something that's resented by a lot of classic stoics. Take Marcus Aurelius in Mediations here:
"Waste no more time arguing what a good man should be. Be one." - 10.16
"Be not a man of superfluous words or superfluous deeds." - 3.5
"[I’m grateful to the gods…] that when I had my heart set on philosophy, I did not fall into the hands of a sophist nor sat alone writing, *nor untangled syllogisms* (emphasis mine) nor preoccupied myself with celestial phenomena." - 1.17
Mind you, Marcus (to my knowledge) never self-identified as a stoic, though he was surrounded by and taught by stoics and his philosophy seems to pound on the 4 cardinal virtues relentlessly.
Here, Epictetus alludes to the futility of certain trivial diversions in philosophical debate:
"[...] What Nature is, and how she administers the universe, and whether she really exists or not, these are questions about which there is no need to go on to bother ourselves." - Fragment
"Be mostly silent; or speak merely what is needful, and in few words." - Enchiridion, 33
I think the problem of trivial diversion, specifically when it comes to subjectivity, is a widespread problem in philosophy and not necessarily specific to stoicism. I do think that debating subjective interpretations without some common good in sight or at hand is contrary to stoic philosophy.
Maybe what you're saying is undeniable evidence of the subjectivity being a problem, though. I certainly can't argue that, and I know others struggle with that too. It could be that I'm just taking what I like and silently rejecting the rest. I think this is why what many stoics did in taking what made sense from other schools of thought, purely because it seemed truthful, is still wise today. Many stoics weren't even opposed to slavery for example - it's clearly a product of a different time. I'm not sure that I'd ever identify as a stoic either, but I do enjoy a lot of what it has to offer so far. It's fascinating to see how much we're like people from 2000 years ago, too.
Therefore no, even if something more effective than wine had been available at the time, I do not think "taking drugs to feel happy/satisfied/virtuous" would be advisable.
Being virtuous was "being a virtuous citizen"; no matter if you were a slave or an Emperor. If anything they tried to teach you not to care about the conditions you were in (rich, poor, young, old...) and focus on the outcomes only.
( I do not consider myself an expert, but I mantain a small page about Stoicism: https://www.pa-mar.net/Lifestyle/Stoicism.html )
But stoicism tells you to focus on this "virtuousness" in defiance of the actual outcomes: it tells you you shouldn't care whether other people acknowledge you as virtuous or not, or whether you succeeded or failed in a contest, as long as you acted rightly. I think this is actually a contradiction, because you can't decide which actions are virtuous through pure reason without regard to their outcomes; or even if you could, how would you ever know whether your reasoning was correct or not?
I've never seen the result of a contest being something that really mattered in stoicism.
The 4 cardinal virtues don't seem to be relevant in any conventional contest I can think of. Maybe I'm interpreting your comment wrong.
> in defiance of the actual outcomes
Is that true, though? I think wisdom comes into question here, and if you do "virtuous" things with bad outcomes, it's not very wise and therefor not very virtuous. Good intentions with bad results are nice in that you meant well, but good intentions don't make us virtuous on their own.
Yeah, my point is that's explicitly given as an example of something you shouldn't care about IIRC.
> I think wisdom comes into question here, and if you do "virtuous" things with bad outcomes, it's not very wise and therefor not very virtuous. Good intentions with bad results are nice in that you meant well, but good intentions don't make us virtuous on their own.
At that point doesn't the whole stoic idea just become circular? The wisdom to act virtuously seems to be no simpler than a complete philosophy. And all of the rest of stoicism seems to depend on being able to know whether your acts were virtuous - e.g. if I acted virtuously but had poor results because of things outside my control, I shouldn't be saddened - but that advice is no use if I don't know whether I acted virtuously.
Not as far as I understand it. Virtue is fairly objective, and doing that for your own sake wouldn't be virtuous. Classical stoics believe humans are a social animal, and truly virtuous behaviour is pro-social.
> The stoics say that you should care about whether you acted virtuously rather than whether your actions lead to a good outcome
I'm not sure I understand this, but I doubt that's your fault. All I can think is that if your actions lead to a bad outcome, ultimately you didn't act virtuously - even if the intent was there. There's a sort of tricky spot in the philosophy which I don't fully understand yet though. Take Cato the Younger for example. His virtue and integrity stats were so buffed that he brought ruin to himself and those close to him, and history seems a little torn about it. Was it virtuous to stick to his guns and end up dead, or was that actually foolish and ultimately not virtuous because it served no one around him? I don't fully understand the classic or modern stoic take on this kind of situation.
However I do think in most cases that if your actions have bad (bad as in Stoic Objective Bad) outcomes then you didn't act virtuously. I suppose if it couldn't have been anticipated, then maybe you did.
Interesting - my take is the complete opposite. I see it as though Stoicism describes the ideal human as quite selfless and pro-social.
> I think it's ok, even good, to actually care about real-world outcomes sometimes.
I believe this is actually all that matters in stoicism, since real-world outcomes are all that matter to the people around you. I could be wrong - I've just read a couple translated books and listened to some podcasts at this point.
I think you're understating it; this seems to be a major point of stoicism, that you shouldn't be sad if your favourite pot was broken or your wife died or your fellow citizens denounce you and exile you, so long as you acted virtuously. You should only worry about what you can control, your own actions, not what you can't control.
All the stoic writings I've read seemed to take it as a given that you already knew what was virtuous. So if what's virtuous is solely a function of what's in your own head, then the whole thing seems solipsistic. If you define virtuous actions in terms of their results and their effects on other people then it wouldn't be solipsistic, but in that case stoicism seems to tell you very little about how to live; judging which actions are virtuous doesn't seem any easier than just judging what you should do in the first place.
I think that's very much contrary to utilitarianism, which says you should measure your actions by their consequences. If you did x and got a world with utility y where you could have done z and got a world with utility w, and y < w, that's the very definition (under utilitarianism) of a bad action.
Similarly you didn't make the wrong bet when you lose to a bad beat.
Any non omniscient actor can at best act to maximize expected utility.
If you ignore a pattern of bad outcomes that would lead you to improve your estimate of expected utility, then you are out of bounds, but my limited knowledge of stoicism does not make me think that it is opposed to such self reflection.
Are there any? Perhaps the tenets of Stoicisim depend on there being no such drugs.
Back around 1990 I was working in a (then industrial) part of Hong Kong called Tsuen Wan. I would regularly go to McDonalds for lunch around 11:30 in order to watch an amazing crowd behavior. Above the McDonalds was a large elementary school. At noon sharp they would break for lunch and huge numbers of little kids would come down and crowd into the restaurant to order lunch. Almost 100% of these kids ordered exactly the same thing: a Filet 'o Fish.
I remember this McDonalds having a very long row of those diagonal slots where hamburgers were slid down and stacked up: except for one slot, they were all pre-filled with Filet 'o Fish sandwiches in preparation for the onslaught.
Freshness, she said. The fish burgers have the shortest shelf life so they make each one to order.
That's the price I pay for not eating next to a large elementary school in Hong Kong at lunch time.
A binary choice gets you to a default.
I learned of this idea from a TED talk many years ago.
Whenever you're called on to make up your mind,
and you're hampered by not having any,
the best way to solve the dilemma, you'll find,
is simply by spinning a penny.
No - not so that chance shall decide the affair
while you're passively standing there moping;
but the moment the penny is up in the air,
you suddenly know what you're hoping.
-- Piet Hein, "A Psychological Tip"
But side note: I've found TED really disappointing. For a good talk save yourself the time and read the 5 sentences above. Most aren't that good.
Anyone take issue with that?
This suggests a consistency of quality among TED talks that I hadn't noticed before.
I like some and not others.
This is one of my favourites. The last time I linked to it on HN nobody liked it but I didn't feel rejected. I felt special.
The McDonalds Theory doesn't attempt to control or guide the decision. It maximally liberates others to shape it. It invites serendipity, from the POV of the prompter. It doesn't assume the poser of the question has any special knowledge or expertise with which they wish to shape the choice landscape.
But "A or B" can very easily (and perhaps unintentionally) guide and take control of the choice. Its usage can easily become a "dark pattern" that collapses the possibility space onto one of two known trajectories (from the perspective of the prompter).
If you WANT to take control, then "A or B" is great. But if you want to lazily invite collaborative ideas from the minds of others with the least effort or skill, then McDonalds Theory is much much better imho.
To show my cards, I've realized I air toward the latter in my community organizing and facilitation work. Frankly, I believe we're all more likely to learn more about the world through McDonalds Theory framing, instead of getting stuck in local minima of "only what we can imagine" as leaders/supporters :)
This stuff is all very relevant to facilitation practices! It's neat stuff to think through, so thanks for the opportunity to work through it out loud :)
No thanks. It's better say "eat your apples" than to allow them to be disrespectful to their parents.
A child who does not obey their parents does not respect their parents.
But take that idea further, I'm not even talking about Seinfield in particular. Let's say we use any subject-X for this purpose of conversation-starting. I'm not a natural conversationist, and most conversations with acquaintances or strangers often end in awkward silences after a sentence or two. I've had great conversations sure, but usually it's because they happen to touch on very specific topics that I really am interested in. In other words, I don't really buy this whole idea that all you need to do is to start with a topic common enough, and the conversation flows. It just hasn't been my experience.
Reading over the above, I now realize how much I agree with the author’s thesis: good icebreakers use both commonality and creative prompts.
i sincerely would like to eat mcdonald’s but since it’s not considered a serious option, they just laugh and the stalemate continues
On so many levels.
tada! you got a single patty big mac for $1.30ish. but if you're feeling cheap and this deal isn't happening anymore, you can do the same with mcdoubles.
We've been Cheesy Rider ever since. I laser-cut matching cheese-themed license plate frames, so we're stuck with it forever.
Main takeaway -- if people don't know the answer, say the wrong answer, and the group will eventually produce a better answer. Sounds like how the web works (best way to get the right answer is to post the wrong one). Anyway, this is a cool idea. I will try suggesting McDonald's sometime.
I don’t know who had more fun - the kids or me watching them.
This dinged the credibility.
Not sure how mainstream show Seinfeld can be thought of as a cult classic. Unless this is thrown in there to spark conversation here on how he is wrong.
I don't really see how that hurts his credibility, since it's clear what happened and what the author meant. If your interpretation was that the author was trying to highlight his niche 90s sitcom tastes, then I think you were the one committing the communication error here.
It's worth it, because you get judged for not knowing trivial, cultural-specific rules and knowledge.
Like, hypothetically, how popular a foreign TV show really was in the 90's.
What's funny is all the people online who were absolutely adamant that real life is nothing like TV. Yeah it is. Exactly like it. Comedies wouldn't be funny if they weren't real.
Down to the stupid round door knobs that you can't use with full hands. Why the heck do americans do that?
I've only seen 2 of them in my life.
I will second the recommendation. They're quite good.
I don’t think this is true. Even if a penguin is the biggest penguin  and enormously fat at twice their normal weight, that’s only 90kg and not going to break much ice.
I'm an American who never seems to be able to understand cultural norms. Is this a thing? Is driving people to the airport that big a deal? If I need a ride to the airport, I always just ask around. I am always ready to drive people to the airport (or anywhere) as I went without a car for a few years and greatly appreciated every ride I got.
Airport traffic is unique. There’s no room to loiter and additional complexity in navigating. Also, there’s the expectation of luggage.
That said, airports are very different around the country and so are cultural norms. But generally, you should toss some cash or a token of appreciation to the person driving you to or from the airport.
It does feel like something that would be a very different ask city to city though. I'd never ask for a ride in SF, because BART is fine and it's a bit of a drive back for them. But a nice downtown airport like San Diego and I'll ask anyone I'm close enough with to tell I'm in town.
Not if you are an Uber driver.
it feels like there's a word missing somewhere in that sentence.
The waitress rushed forward to their rescue. In the relay of throwing, the cockroach next fell upon the waitress. The waitress stood firm, composed herself and observed the behavior of the cockroach on her dress. When she was confident enough, she grabbed it with her fingers and threw it out of the restaurant.
Sipping my coffee and watching the amusement, the antenna of my mind picked up a few thoughts and started wondering, was the cockroach responsible for their histrionic behavior?
If so, then why was the waitress not disturbed? It is not the cockroach, but the inability of those people to handle the disturbance caused by the cockroach, that disturbed the group. I realized that, it is not the shouting of my father or my boss or my wife that disturbs me, it’s my inability to manage my reaction to the words around me.
Everyone reacts, few respond.
Conversations can sometimes go nowhere, sometimes they go to places we are uncomfortable with. The waitress leads the way on how to respond."
It was Pokémon.
With a bit of alcohol to loosen the tongue, I found that I could start interesting conversations with Japanese people by using Pokémon as an opening topic. It was something everybody knew on my side of the pond and on theirs. As an added bonus they would help me when I fumbled my Japanese, the learning of which constituted ~50% of why I went to bars to strike up conversations with randos in the first place. (I am not a great conversationalist.)
So yeah, Pokémon was my Seinfeld, I guess.