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99 bits of unsolicited advice (kk.org)
266 points by jcs87 8 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 245 comments

Unsolicited advice? Fair enough. Unsolicited comment- the ones related to money are spoken like someone who has never actually been poor, and are, frankly, insulting.

Even a cursory look at who has developed what over the years shows that people who actually had the resources to do whatever it was that interested them are the ones in the history books. Who knows how many others of equal or greater talent spent their whole lives scraping by instead.

In most every discussion I've come across that touches on money advice, I've see a variant of this comment "This world view doesn't incorporate (my) reality of the poorest of the Western world and is so in invalid and offensive".

I'm not sure what motivates this. If you invert the situation and someone made a list with stuff like "use coupons", would rich people come by and say "this is dumb because it only saves you $0.50 and I (as a rich person) don't care about $0.50"?

People have different starting conditions and different current situations, if what's described isn't relevant to yours--why does it bother you so? Let the people who find value in it find value in it.

> I'm not sure what motivates this.

Privilege and meta-privilege, mainly, and the underlying assumption this privilege engenders that the poor are morally or mentally deficient.

An example: there was an article posted on hn recently titled (and I'm paraphrasing here) "How to be rich". To utilise this advice one had to be already financially comfortable, with safety nets and backups and whatever to begin with, and, from this position of comfort, to rationally accept and take large risks. The article carried with it the implication that, now that you have the advice in your hands, only the willfully stupid or lazy will remain poor.

So, in the end, a) one feels judged, b) one has wasted one's time on an article/video/etc that c) promised and failed to relieve the crushing stress burden and mental load that poverty brings.

Being poor, particularly during your formative years, carries with it a debt that is never paid. If you are poor and have issues with health (physical and mental) you are very, very unlikely to ever be rich in any objective sense. Being poor affects your patterns of thought, your behaviours, your language, and your culture. But the worst of it is that poverty robs you of the opportunity to do things like "move fast and break things" that folk on hn seem to think is so simple and easy. If you are poor, you only get one roll of the die.

Many poor people have totally different experiences. My mother, for example, was only able to continue past 4th grade in India because one of her uncles supported her while making her create a budget for the entire school year down to the last pencil. This was while she helped her mom care for her 6 brothers and sisters in a house that didn't have running water or paved streets. She and my dad (who grew up not-quite-so-poor-but-still-pretty-poor) moved to the US and built up a very nice life for me and my sister.

Not that their experiences are any more representative of "poor" than what people here write about, but there are clearly different experiences and different outcomes. Again, this is not to shame anyone--but the fact that I have to caveat an accurate description of my parents' life to assuage some unknown reader's sensibility is just crazy to me.

But for the sake of argument, I'll concede everything you've described about the "poor experience" and the emotional consequences faced by this group.

Given that, does that mean that any and every discussion among the people not in that group must be couched in ways in order to not offend the sensitive group? How / where should non-deprived people discuss the best way to play the cards they were lucky enough to be dealt?

In extremis, do we need to segregate ourselves away from the sensitive group in order to protect their delicate constitutions?

Complaining about the the "privilege" that the median HN reader/commenter is born with is like if I stumbled on to a message board for 6'8" super-athletic 18-year olds and spent all my time lecturing them about how they need to consider 5'8" kinda-athletic-once-but-now-middle-aged-me in all their discussions. Of course a programmer-centric newsboard is going to have a bunch of well-off people in it.

Now, people shouldn't be jerks--but nothing in the posted article can be construed in the least-bit mean-spirited. The goal posts seemed to have moved from "don't be a dick" to "pretend you're in a support group for X all the time". Is this where we're going?

> Many poor people have totally different experiences. My mother, for example, was only able to continue past 4th grade in India because one of her uncles supported her while making her create a budget for the entire school year down to the last pencil. This was while she helped her mom care for her 6 brothers and sisters in a house that didn't have running water or paved streets. She and my dad (who grew up not-quite-so-poor-but-still-pretty-poor) moved to the US and built up a very nice life for me and my sister.

I get what you are saying. I think good luck plays a huge role in escaping poverty and that it rarely gets the thanks it deserves. It has certainly helped me in my life, far more than perhaps I deserve. I grew up, not as poor as your mother, but quite poor by the standards of my country (ditch toilet, rigged running water, etc) at the time. I have no problem in ascribing my meagre success largely to luck, but I can't pretend it doesn't hurt a little when my private-school, politically-connected colleague (and heir to a $20,000,000+ fortune) asks me why I'm not a millionaire and I have to explain that I began by having to unlearn the habits of someone who grew up poor.

> In extremis, do we need to segregate ourselves away from the sensitive group in order to protect their delicate constitutions?

Replace 'poverty' with race, gender or any other form of privilege and then ask the same question. I could argue that poverty is probably the most pernicious of dis-privileges in that if you compared a rich person who was encumbered with every other common dis-privilege (gender, race, religion, gender, etc) they would be likely in a significantly better position that a white, Christian/atheist, cis-male poor man.

> Given that, does that mean that any and every discussion among the people not in that group must be couched in ways in order to not offend the sensitive group? How / where should non-deprived people discuss the best way to play the cards they were lucky enough to be dealt?

I can only give my personal view here - no, I don't think you need to avoid talking about "how to get rich" any more than we need to avoid the topics of race, religion, gender, etc. The BIG problem we have is that we talk about things in absolute terms, and only in terms of what we, ourselves, don't possess or claiming that something we do possess had no impact (and that it was all down to our hard work).

We talk about privilege as a currency, when it is only a tendency, a weighting on the probabilities of life. The lack of privilege is not a prison sentence, but life is much easier if you are privileged and, if you fail or fall, the path back to normalcy is much shorter and easier if you have the safety net that privilege provides.

> The goal posts seemed to have moved from "don't be a dick" to "pretend you're in a support group for X all the time". Is this where we're going?

I hope not. We can only fix these issues by reaching agreement and moving forward. If we start by berating people, that makes moving forward soooo much harder.

"Replace 'poverty' with race, gender or any other form of privilege and then ask the same question."

Yes, even for race and gender it is ridiculous to claim people thus "affected" have no chance in life whatsoever. You had a black president not that long ago. There are several black billionaires.

Is this really accepted canon that underprivileged are going to be underprivileged, no matter what - so much so that there can be no useful discussion about it?

No, the point is not about 'not offending' a 'sensitive' group. It's about not spreading lies about that group.

I didn’t see any lies about the group. Did I miss it?

> Being poor affects your patterns of thought, your behaviours, your language, and your culture.

Yes, and being an adult gives the opportunity to change your patterns, behavior, language, and culture.

I've had a lot of destructive attitudes and behaviors formed young that I've discarded because they don't work. It's not easy, but it can be done. I still have a number of bad habits to work on :-/

> If you are poor, you only get one roll of the die.

In America, there are more rolls. For example, migrants walk a thousand miles to get in, have nothing, then they start businesses. Oprah went from welfare to billionaire, for example.

If "how to be rich" requires you to be comfortable, find an article on "how to be financially comfortable" and act on that advice first. Then come back to the "how to be rich" advice. It isn't rocket science.

And your ramblings about having no opportunities when poor are simply not true anymore. Even poor people can get a cheap computer and internet and have access to all the information in the world. Running a web site only costs 1$/month.

Many startup founders famously slept on the floor in cramped offices while starting up.

And if you really live in such a shitty place, you can still sell drugs and become rich that way.

I sympathize with the poor, but I am tired of these "poor people are such victims, there is nothing they can do to change their condition, ever. They are just victims" type of comments that pop up in every discussion about wealth.

What the heck are you talking man. A cheap computer can't run the modern web, even less so the development tooling necessary to build it.

And recommending drug selling as an alternative...

Your name is appropriate for your comment.

Of course a cheap computer can run the modern web. Even a cheap phone can run the modern web. What are YOU talking about?

You can get a Raspberry Pi 400 and do stuff, for example. With a used computer you could get there even cheaper, presumably.

If you really, really claim you can not even afford that, ask for donations. There are many people who are willing to help, if you are making a credible case of really wanting to learn.

Maybe going into IT is not an option for everybody, but it shows that the broad claim that "poor only get one shot and have now chance whatsoever" is not generally true.

As for tooling, you can still create websites with vim on the command line.

I don't recommend selling drugs. But people growing up in very poor environments got rich selling drugs. Another case showing that poor are not condemned to remain poor simply by virtue of being poor.

Maybe if you are in such a poor environment, and you don't want to sell drugs, sell counselling for drug addicts.

You already seem to have a computer that runs the modern web, or how are you commenting here?

If you can't afford a computer, go to a public library. Or ask at a school. Or ask a local business if you can use their office computers after hour. Or whatever. Do something!

Another idea: since you already seem to have a computer, help out a homeless person by giving them your computer over night, while you sleep. Most modern computers are capable of multiple user accounts. Most computers are idle for 99% of the time (or something).

I'm sure you are aware of the story in India where somebody installed a computer terminal in a wall, and the kids taught themselves how to use it.

Why is it so important to you to believe that everything is hopeless and nobody has a chance in life, unless government rises the minimum wage and instates a UBI?

Wow. Did you seriously just argue that poverty traps aren't real because you can always get rich selling drugs?

(And yet, in the same breath, say you don't recommend it? And yet still fail to connect those dots into "systemic disadvantage"?)

Rich people might just follow your advice.. Warren Buffet bought Bill Gates lunch at McD with coupons. https://www.pinterest.de/pin/837880705644592185/?amp_client_...

Because downplaying the absolute reality that is the importance of money to survival is terrible advice, no matter what a person's current financial status.

I have no particular beef with you, so please don't take it that way--but "the absolute reality that is the importance of money to survival" is a subjective assessment that does not have to be (and is not) shared by 100% of the population.

Again, in extremis: Buddhist monks. And if Buddhist monks exist (and don't care about money), then surely there can be a spectrum of what money means to different people?

Maybe there's even a more successful attitude for earning money than maintaining a singular focus on monotonically-increasing your inventory of it? Maybe past a certain point, the best thing to do with money is to risk it? (Which doesn't even imply forgetting or debating its importance?)

You would be fair to say "this advice doesn't apply to me" or "this advice only applies when conditions X, Y, and Z have been met" or even "this advice is wrong". However, the statement that this advice is "insulting" creates a toxic environment.

No one will ever be able to anticipate all the ways they might cross/deny/fail to recognize someone else's experience or what they "know to be true". Nor is that anyone's job. After all, we're all just stumbling through this thing-called-life trying to do our best. If people persist in taking offense to comments made by strangers on the internet who have never heard of them, the only logical outcome is to exclude those people from the discussion. Is this what you would choose for yourself?

At best, this makes it harder to for me to find like-minded people to have the discussions I want to have--and at worst, it deprives people from being exposed to things that they might find valuable in those discussions, because those discussions are no longer being had in the open where they could be stumbled upon.

Whatever you choose to do from this point forward is no skin off my back. My point is that, in the face of such reactions, my response is to take my very important (to me), real-world discussions about maximizing my life-given-my-circumstances away from the people who would comment in this way.

Anyway, this is not a debate I need to win. Maybe you want to hear this stuff, maybe you don't.

Exactly. Would the advice 'listen to a beautiful peace of music' insulting to deaf people?

Addition: As a direct advice to deaf people, this would be of course offensive.

For what it's worth, you making a lot of sense.

> People have different starting conditions and different current situations, if what's described isn't relevant to yours--why does it bother you so? Let the people who find value in it find value in it.

Those advice are most of the time given as being universal, that's why.

Explicitly denied in the text:

> Advice like these are not laws. They are like hats. If one doesn’t fit, try another.

I am referring to this, not the article:

> In most every discussion I've come across that touches on money advice, I've see a variant of this comment "This world view doesn't incorporate (my) reality of the poorest of the Western world and is so in invalid and offensive".

I think you missed the point which wasn't to express offense but to disagree based on differential priorities. It's a Maslow's hierarchy of needs thing: if lower needs are not meet, some of the advice would be detrimental if followed. I think it's a fair criticism when the audience is not delinieated like it isn't in the OP.

The comment was that the points about money "are, frankly, insulting".

I'd call yours a radical interpretation of the text.

Well, it's apparently the correct interpretation according to the author (see sibling comment.) I don't think expressing sentiment in addition to the point makes that sentiment the point.

Fair enough.

For what it's worth, yours is the interpretation I was going for.

> Advice like these are not laws. They are like hats. If one doesn’t fit, try another.

Lists like these are full of survivor bias. In fact, it's baked into it.

On the other hand, survivor bias, when it's not about "to make it big, start as a millionaire heir" can also be another name for "worked for me, so there's at least a single living proof that it can work".

But "worked for me" could mean that something worked, or that something didn't work but the good outcome happened anyway.

The entire concept of evolution is built on survivor bias.

No. Evolution is built on favorable mutations being preserved (e.g. the tautology that things which cause life to continue cause life to continue). Survivorship bias is arbitrarily associating traits that survivors have with success. It's the difference between correlation and causation.

My point is that the correlation is the only real data we have.

My point is that correlation isn't real data.

That's conflating two concepts. Survivor bias means assuming what you did is "why" you survived. Evolution is survivor results. Survivors stay alive but no one is claiming anything about why they stayed alive, only that they did.

I'm not sure what you meant by this but it comes across as a quip attempting to be witty and piercing but completely missing the point.

No, it's quite literal.

Evolution is the process that preserves those who survived and left progeny, and chaffes away those who don't. The only measure of success in it is the survival.

It does not mean that attempts to make some rational models is worthless; quite the contrary.

Of course, there are many who tried things like these and failed; maybe many more than those who prospered. But there are those who tried something opposite, and fewer of them, if any, have prospered. So these inclinations of prosperous people have something to them, though not a guarantee.

If you take many such accounts of successful people and correlate them, you will find certain similarities; they, of course, are pretty well-known.

It is quite literal, and also missing the context of the discussion above.

Ok, fair enough. However, this type of comment is subject to the following problem: for any assignemnt of privilege, there is always someone poorer or more wretched than the person making this assignment, all the way down to a child born with no mind due to Zika virus who is cast aside by her family and dies alone in a ditch. Furthermore, the arc of privilege is logarithmic. So although I agree with you in some sense, I find I can't in good faith criticise someone for being privileged. Is it not inherently hypocritical, as the 'privilege gap' I perceive (either between me and the person, or between some societal band and the person) is minimal compared to the gap between me and everyone else less privileged than I?

I'm actually surprised at the number of folks who appear to have interpreted my comment as one regarding privilege. That wasn't my intent at all. As another commenter noted, it's about the hierarchy of needs. Perhaps I should have left off the 'and frankly, insulting' bit. I meant intellectually insulting, as it is exceedingly easy to see that it's bad advice if you took the time to check.

I have yet to meet someone who downplays the importance of money who doesn't also come from enough wealth that they've never had it be a real concern.

This is frustrating in multiple ways- one, it shows that they have a strong disconnect from the day to day reality for the majority of humanity. That doesn't make them a bad person. It does bring in to question the universal applicability of their advice. Secondly, being currently wealthy is no guarantee that someone will maintain that state in perpetuity. Having respect and gratefulness for what money provides, instead of downplaying it, goes a long way towards being able to preserve it.

There's a reason the pattern goes from rags to riches to rags again across three generations, and it's not just regression towards the mean.

I think this depends a lot on what the task is. If your goal is explicitly to build a factory or a real estate empire, then you're probably right. You're not going to get very far without a bunch of capital to start.

However, if your goal is to do something legitimately creative, I agree with the spirit of the article. Indie game developers often work absolute wonders in spite of (or maybe because of?) Their limitations, whereas super heavily funded giants like Google and Amazon seem to be unable to think through any problem where the solution isn't dependent on "we have really deep pockets; buy the creative talent"



Wouldnt it have felt more offensive if the author would have written: next advice is not for poor people...

> spoken like someone who has never actually been poor

It's not even just that. It is spoken like someone who has not even been around poor people.

Class segregation is a much more serious issue than simply class distinction. I wonder if it is a growing problem in society. Because if so, it will not end well as it never has historically.

If you grew up upper middle class or wealthy and you have not had multiple friends on much lower financial tiers than you then you are absolutely out of touch. It is not possible to be aware of the (mostly minor but not insignificant) differences in people's lives by simply reading a book, watching a documentary, listening to a TED talk, or "being an activist".

I fully agree.

>Even a cursory look at who has developed what over the years shows that people who actually had the resources to do whatever it was that interested them are the ones in the history books.

In areas like startups, where family connections, early education, family environment, and fallbacks, matter, yes.

But the 20th century was full of people from poor backgrounds (includings immigrants arriving with 0 dollars) making it in e.g. arts. So much so, that the "starving artist" is a cliche.

(And of course, starting and succesfully running regular businesses - the 99% of businesses kind, from grocery stores and restaurants to design studios and software houses, not the 0.0001% that is VC-backed startups sold for b/millions).

> But the 20th century was full of people from poor backgrounds (includings immigrants arriving with 0 dollars) making it in e.g. arts. So much so, that the "starving artist" is a cliche.

First up, the "starving artist" cliché isn't one because of those artist who got really really rich. It's a cliché because of all the very poor artists that were starving.

Secondly, survivor bias. Don't focus on the few artists who escaped the clutches of starvation to frame the group as a whole. Especially in case the calling may be abandoned in order to not starve.

How many "starry night"s could we have had if no one ever needed to Weeley about food, shelter, or safety?

We've got one, from someone who worked about all of those at various points in his life.

>How many "starry night"s could we have had if no one ever needed to Weeley about food, shelter, or safety?

Probably much fewer. Part of the allure of starry night is the backstory and toil involved - not the same as some fat complacent well off guy painting pretty pictures in a nice house.

Many of those artists starved to death, or otherwise perished, before they were recognized as greats, and their works became seen as important and valuable.

And the 20th century was quite full of rich artists making it, too.

I can't disagree with your point that resources and opportunity beget more resources and more opportunity. I don't think that is the only path to success.

I also see advice in here that implies he tried and failed at many things, and perhaps was most successful when not focused so much on money:

• A multitude of bad ideas is necessary for one good idea.

• Most overnight successes — in fact any significant successes — take at least 5 years. Budget your life accordingly.

• Don’t create things to make money; make money so you can create things. The reward for good work is more work.

It's easy to not focus on money when you've got it.

• When playing Monopoly, spend all you have to buy, barter, or trade for the Orange properties. Don’t bother with Utilities.

Here's some better advice: don't play Monopoly! There are many, many new board games in the world that are incomparably better. One of the most grievous flaws of Monopoly is that it depends on the terrible mechanic of player elimination - the winner is the last player who hasn't been eliminated. That means if you have a game night with four people, then two people have to sit around bored, after they've been eliminated, while the remaining players fight it out.

Monopoly is not that bad.

If you play by the rules, with experienced players, a whole game takes about an hour to complete. And when players starts getting eliminated, the end is close. The most common house rules usually drag the game down and are probably the source of a lot of hatred for this game.

So if you play Monopoly, do yourself a favor and read the damn rules. In my booklet, there is even a quick variant that is suggested: the main difference is that you start with some property and the winner is the wealthiest player when one player is bankrupt.

And yes, there are better games, every board game geek knows that, but sometimes it is the only one available.

Also, Orange properties may be the best, but you usually don't have much of a choice. What you really want is a monopoly, any monopoly, as soon as possible, and build aggressively.

> but sometimes it is the only one available

I vaguely suspect that there are better games you can play with 2 dice, which come included in the Monopoly box. Pig is simple enough that a child can understand it, but also has a reasonable sense of tension built in as long as no one in the group has run the numbers on what perfect play is.

And if you can find a deck of cards or even just 3 more dice, options open up even further. Or if you've got an even number of people and one of them has a phone, there are multiple websites online that will generate charades or pictionary challenges for you.

I just don't think Monopoly has that much to recommend it compared to almost anything else, even when the game is at its best. And especially if I'm in a group setting, given the choice between fighting about the 'proper' way to play Monopoly or just playing a game that's at least nominally fun regardless of anyone's experience level... some things just aren't worth the effort.

> And when players starts getting eliminated, the end is close.

Yes, but you know well in advance of being eliminated whether you can win or not. The process of getting eliminated is pretty long as a percentage of game time.

Monopoly is literally the antithesis of what makes board games fun. I vaguely recall a hilarious and accurate essay on this topic, comparing Monopoly to Settlers of Catan and highlighting the degree to which they are nearly perfect polar opposites.

If I’m following your logic, in that Monopoly is the opposite of fun, and Catan is the opposite of Monopoly, then you’re saying Catan is the definition of fun.

Catan is definitely fun, compared to Monopoly, but there are many games I’d much rather play than Catan (coming from someone that had to talk his wife into playing it a few days ago after about 5+ years of not playing it, due to the previous — and only — time we played it taking 3 hours over two days). I’ve played it with others, and on Switch, though.

My biggest gripe about Catan is it’s heavy reliance on luck.

Of course, that’s my subjective opinion.

Some of my recent favorites (in no particular order) that all rely quite a bit less on luck:

- Terraforming Mars

- Brass Birmingham

- Hansa Teutonica

- Kanban EV

- Pax Pamir

- Castles of Burgundy

- Scythe

- On Mars

Sorry, just geeking out a bit, since the subject came up.

Those are all great games and great suggestions, but they are also very heavy and and long games. Even with skilled players, you won't be able to complete a session of Terraforming Mars in less than two hours.

While Catan is not a perfect game, it's a perfect beginners game: a bit of luck, but a bit of strategy, lots of player interaction, and not too long. At the same time, it also shows its age, in that there are newer games that are beginner friendly and eliminate some of Catan's shortcomings.

Your main point, however, is still often forgotten: the oars games have come a long way since 1935 and even 1997.

If anyone wants to learn more about this, there are excellent and very friendly communities at boardgamegeek.com and reddit.com/r/boardgames

Yeah, these can definitely be a bit longer. Catan can also take a bit, though, particularly if you’re unlucky or playing with people that don’t trade (which can be frustrating).

For more beginner friendly + shorter games, though, I’d still recommend several over Catan:

- Carcassonne - Ticket to Ride - Splendor - 7 Wonders - Pandemic - Codenames - Azul

Those are all excellent beginner friendly recommendations. In general, the Spiel des Jahres are quite good suggestions, offering enough depth for long-term play, yet being easy enough to learn.

Those are good games too, but Codenames (one of my all-time faves) is radically simpler, quieter and less social than Catan; IME it's great fun for the spymasters but can be less engaging for other players at times. (shrug)

Monopoly is the Waterfall Model or the Liars Poker of the board game world. It was meant in a spirit of sarcasm/derision and people took it seriously.

Monopoly with six is even worse this way, because you can have the situation of one person sitting around with nothing to do happen multiple times. If everyone plays, the first loser sits around. #2 tries to start something new with #1, and then #3 or #4 finds themselves having missed out on whatever the other people started.

If not everybody plays, then #2 may get everyone else to start something long. Now #4 and #5 are stuck playing something again with the winner, after that person has already monopolized their time for the entire evening.

Because face it, the player who wins or comes in second usually is the same motherfucker to suggest Monopoly in the first place.

I think I read recently that Monopoly was (derived from) a board game that was designed to make a political/economic statement about Georgism and not to be fun.

Suggestion for a fun group based game where no-one is left out for the entirety of the rounds: Avalon.

My friends and I have had so much fun playing this, especially with all of the tiny game modifiers you can introduce to spice it up when things get too easy.

I don't care for Monopoly because there is little room for strategy. It's the roll of the dice, and in fact, the original point of the game was to illustrate that wealth is a roll of the dice.

> • Money is overrated. Truly new things rarely need an abundance of money. If that was so, billionaires would have a monopoly on inventing new things, and they don’t. Instead almost all breakthroughs are made by those who lack money, because they are forced to rely on their passion, persistence and ingenuity to figure out new ways. Being poor is an advantage in innovation.

Uh, no. Being poor is a huge waste of time and energy.

The way I heard it that makes sense is that to be optimally productive you need to be "hungry" in the sense of wanting more and not being complacent. But you don't want to be starving, generally.

For the same reason, some say the worst addiction is a steady paycheck precisely because it makes you complacent.

These sayings are probably half-motivational with only a kernel of truth. If you are an heir or heiress you will have a big advantage, even if your motivation is less. But there are other metrics than just money, of course. If your point is to achieve excellence or greatness, or operate at the peak of your abilities, then possibly there is such a thing as being too comfortable.

The person who invented automatic valves on steam engines was the lad hired to run up a ladder, turn a valve, run down the ladder, turn a value, run up the ladder, etc., all day.

He rigged up a system of rods and levers to do the work for him, so he could sleep.

> The way I heard it that makes sense is that to be optimally productive you need to be "hungry" in the sense of wanting more and not being complacent. But you don't want to be starving, generally.

Being hungry or starving. OK. But I think a more important point is: do you know if it is a temporary thing (2h, half a day) before you get back to the certainty of not being hungry or worse starving ? I think this uncertainty is killing any mindframe you need to innovate when pushed to the edge like that. It will eat at our brain instead and not trigger macgyveresque magical JIT innovation (also: learned helplessness). Also, not everyone can innovate (wrong place, wrong time, wrong social circle or whatever the circumstances: that's not their thing).

> For the same reason, some say the worst addiction is a steady paycheck precisely because it makes you complacent.

This is the front, I think `some` here are some of those psycho freaks who rises to the top by violence (symbolic) and want to fit everyone and the whole world into a survival of the fittest vision to justify their behaviour when rising. Most people don't want to fight like that, type A personalities are imposing these values to their benefits because it makes it easier for them to justify their fighting/cheating/being-violent in rising up by imposing it on the rest. There's also the just world hypothesis playing a huge trick on them by justifying their behaviour after the fact. `I did it like this so it is the way to do it. Now fight for your bread, peasants.`

Even had coffee yet, I should stop ranting :D.

I wonder if this actually why we consider kids more creative than adults. Maybe it is really that they have just less to care for and more self-motivation than adults.

Kids simply don't realize that certain things are impossible, so they do them.

When I was a kid I spent a lot of time trying to trisect an angle, sure that proofs it was impossible were erroneous and mathematicians were fools.

Of course I failed, but an adult would never have tried.

In junior high, my best friend and I spent weeks doing exactly this, and spending hours in our math teacher’s classroom, excitedly showing him our work. Thanks for reminding me of this. I can still remember some of our approaches.

This is sort of just a proof by contradiction.

> Truly new things rarely need an abundance of money.

Based on my experience this holds true for organisations. Time and again I've seen a well run startup lose its bearing with the avalanche of new funding and the expectation of hockey-stick growth that comes along with it. Money in this case proves to be counter-productive as everyone starts saying "let's-throw-money" to solve problems. Not only does it not solve the problem but it also starts attracting people who are disproportionately motivated by money. And once an org gets infiltrated by such people it's a sharp downhill from there.

> Instead almost all breakthroughs are made by those who lack money,.... Being poor is an advantage in innovation.

This is anecdotally true (again w.r.t. organisations). At a startup I worked for, we would come up with creative ways to scale up systems and honestly prioritise customers request. With the advent of funding that was replaced by "launch every darn feature now", "don't bother scaling up just buy more machine". Constraints bring out lasting innovations.

An awful lot of inventors and scientists, at least before 1900, were wealthy because they had the time to play around with things. Other inventors and scientists would get patronage from wealthy people. Or they'd get backing from business interests.

Today this patronage often comes in the form of grants by the wealthy to universities for research.

You are missing the point, it seems.

Being poor (but not debilitatingly starving) is an advantage for innovation. You have a lot of incentive to get the heck out of your miserable position, and you cannot fix the problem with just paying more, you have to incessantly invent and try new things.

Of course this is not necessarily good for your well-being, longevity, mental and physical health, prospects of your children and even chances to have any, etc.

I see this not as an advice to become poor, but as a solace to those who are already poor but whose mind is still inventive.

Now I understand why so much of the modern technology was invented in rural India.

Being restricted when it comes to money is what might make me look into building my own pick and place machine because i don't want to dish out so many thousands of euros on a hobby project. Who knows where that will lead me.

When i was poor i wouldn't even think of it because i wouldn't be able to because it still costs money and lots of time. As someone else said a lot of inventors of the past were wealthy because they had both the time and money to spend on innovating. Innovation out of necessity is a thing but i'd say it's rarer nowadays.

My extended family is a mix of people across the middle class. As a boy we were hit by a recession and my parents slipped into Pretend Middle Class status.

Much of my material lessons in both “being poor is expensive” and the value if Good Tools traces to watching my father struggle to have a working set of lawn care tools. I have a particularly vivid memory of watching him buy the second from the bottom string trimmer three times in seven years, while I tried to talk him into spending $25 more on a sturdier looking one. The damned things kept breaking. Every child eventually sees their parents as a human being with flaws, and for me that reached its apex in the lawn care aisle at Sears.

I’m big on doing without until you can do it right. A couple good knives or pans that you clean and pamper until you can afford a whole set. My own solution to the lawn problem was a hand powered edger (basically telescopic shears) and reducing edges wherever I can. String trimmers are bullshit anyway. Construct better beds instead.

I think by being poor he means having enough money to live, but not so much that all your wants are immediately met by throwing your money at them.

Since he compared to Billionaires, I think he means poor in resources (as you have no abundance); but probably someone who has enough resources not to worry about a meal or housing.

Being poor is also very expensive. One dollar spent or earnt for a poor person is disproportionally more expensive than that for a rich person.

• That thing that made you weird as a kid could make you great as an adult — if you don’t lose it.

I wish I could have grasped this as a kid, and I wish I could explain this to my kids now and have them understand/believe me.

My kids each have their own unique personalities, strengths, weaknesses, etc. But they all have to funnel through the same general requirements of school and such. It is too easy to fall into the trap of getting them to "conform." But I want to be able to nurture the "weird" in them!

I was the slowest runner in first grade--even the fat kid outran me in the 50 yard dash. Was I weird!

Today? I'm 70, and I run. Yesterday I ran about 8 miles on trails. Because while I can't run fast, I can run far. Didn't find that out until like 8th grade--all the runs until then were short distances.

So I can run distances, but I'd probably still come in last at the 50 yard dash. Maybe I'm still weird, but I like it.

Wow. What an inspiration!

You raise a great example, as well. No one should be solely defined by their ability or inability to perform a single variation of a task or lesson.

10 years younger than you, can't run at all. Mad props, you beast.

I found Bezos' last letter inspiring in this regard. Especially one of the last sections titled "Differentiation is Survival and the Universe Wants You to be Typical".

link here -> https://www.cnbc.com/2021/04/15/jeff-bezos-releases-final-le...

>Differentiation is Survival and the Universe Wants You to be Typical

"Oh, and while you differentiate, those of you on my warehouses don't forget to work 10 hour shifts and pee in bottles, so that I can get a few dollars more per hour from each disposable you while I offer my grand-man wisdom"

I like the analogy he makes here.

There is a balance in here somewhere to learn how to navigate, adapt and live within a society/community that favors set standards and "normality" without muting out uniqueness, personal interests, etc.

That's a tough one for me. I seem to be stuck on an axis of either being nerdy, anti-social, physically unfit and intelligent or outgoing, stupid, and physically fit. I've varied along the axis throughout my life and never managed to be a good nerd while also being mentally and physically healthy. I've seen a lot of other people do it, it's just not something I've been able to pull off.

I work with a lot of people who remind me of my former self and I'm afraid to encourage them to find balance in their lives because I don't want them to lose their genius like I feel I did. It's tough when you grow up a nerd and find most of your self-worth and security in your intellectual superiority and then lose it because you thought the grass was greener on the other side.

As they say, don't try to think outside the box. There is no box.

Or, in this case, no axis. You can move anywhere in this space.

I think the real revelation comes in understanding that the grass will always appear greener on the other side, regardless of which side you find yourself on. That is a hard thing to understand without having gone through that.

Edit, such this additional advice:

• If you can avoid seeking approval of others, your power is limitless.

This is so bizarre. What is the relation of daily exercise to personality traits?

I get the mentally healthy part, but exercising is like brushing your teeth imo.

IDK, if you ask me it's testosterone. When it's low, I can sit in a chair for 12 hours a day writing code. When it's high, I want to socialize, travel, and low-level tasks make me angry. I want to think big and strategically.

Sounds a lot more like high/low dopamine to me. Idk how you're getting test levels though.

Might be but isn't that correlated? I only ever tested my testosterone levels when I was older and fit, and they were in the normal range.

This reminded me of an Oatmeal comic [1] about how "being weird" requires you to cultivate an interesting personality.

[1]: https://theoatmeal.com/pl/senior_year/pe

What would you have done differently? Did you try to fit in? Did it make a difference in the long run?

My personal take is don't try to fit in but, equally, don't try to stand out. I've never liked sports, for example, and I've never pretended to. But I've also never gone out of my way to advertise my dislike for sports or made fun of anyone who does.

Well, that's hard to say. In order to have, say, made different choices as an adolescent, I would have had to have the insight I have now.

Did I try to fit in, and do I still spend too much effort on worrying about others' perception of me? Yes!

I think it is OK to look to "fit in," but don't do it at the expense of what makes you unique. That is what resonated with me about this particular bit of advice.

I have seen in myself where I left some things on the table to have certain kinds of friends or to be seen (or avoid being seen) in a certain light. And I see where these conditions I have manufactured for myself don't have the staying power and are not as fulfilling as more natural relationships and experiences.

Unsolicited comments:

• Compliment people behind their back. It’ll come back to you.

Super pragmatic. A tad selfish (complementing people in the hope it comes back around), but I still like it.

• Your best response to an insult is “You’re probably right.” Often they are.

This has been my default for years. It also disarms cunty humans (even when drunk at a pub).

• Always cut away from yourself.

When you learn this lesson the hard way, it sticks forever.

• In all things — except love — start with the exit strategy. Prepare for the ending. Almost anything is easier to get into than out of.

"except love" U WOT M8? Begin with the end in mind. You'll enjoy the experience more knowing the good times can end at any point. You also want to have your life in order to handle a massive emotional trainwreck.

Unsolicited meta-comments:

> Super pragmatic. A tad selfish (complementing people in the hope it comes back around), but I still like it.

Yah, talk about doing the right thing for the wrong reason but still beats many alternatives. Also way up on my list is spreading good rumors without sharing the source: "someone... I'll never say who... said this nice thing about you!"

> It also disarms...

I can't even say it. I'm not Australian. I'll try admitting guilt though (not that I'm a...).

> "except love" U WOT M8

Anything can end at any point, including this precious life. Relationships ARE special though. Sometimes you get glimpses where you know it isn't gonna work out (and if you're red-flag aware... it won't take long). In that case, yah... look at those exits and appreciate what led you into this potential disaster while you can and learn.



If this relationship has a chance then you have to throw the exit strat thinking out the window. That doesn't mean go get joined at the hip, but self fulfilling prophecies are a thing. If its a good thing, your partner will absolutely see you have one foot outside and hedge bets accordingly. Have faith! Not that you won't have problems, but that they will be worth overcoming.

Unsolicited meta-meta-comment:

>I can't even say it. I'm not Australian.

It's not just Aussies that say the word cunt a lot. It's relatively common in most of the major English speaking nations: England, Ireland, Scotland, New Zealand just off the top of my head. I wouldn't be at all surprised if Scots say that word more than we do (measured in microcunts-uttered-per-second, normalised on a per-capita basis).

We do seem to have the most variants of the term (tough cunt, hard cunt, dumbcunt, shitcunt, gaycunt etc.), but that could just be my bias as I'm less familiar with slang from other countries.

The US and Canada really are the exceptions to the rule in this regard, ascribing disproportionate levels of offensiveness to the word compared with anywhere else on Earth.

It bothers me a little that the slang term for vulva has always been somehow vastly more offensive than the equivalent slang term for penis.

See now if the overly-woke could conceive and "amplify" a massively offensive gender-neutral term for genitalia for use in abuse that is frequently needless, I could totally get behind insisting on it in place of prick, cock, cunt, et al. It would be political correctness and wokeness gone completely and utterly sane! I guess "wank-stain" just about does the same job, cheers Scotland!

Be excellent to each other.

Do people respond to insults? Why not just walk away or engage in what is banter?

"Recipe for success: under-promise and over-deliver."

I have never seen evidence that this is true in general. The field I got my PhD in has breakthrough papers with titles like "The Euler Equations as Differential Inclusions" and "Bounded Gaps Between Primes". Would people in the field be worse off if breakthrough papers had titles like "Attention is all you need"? I'm unconvinced that they would be. Would politicians be more likely to win office if they made fewer promises on the campaign trail? I'm unconvinced. Are you more likely to get a job if you are meticulously fair in how you describe your background and experience, or if you puff yourself up? I think the world would be a better place if folks biased themselves in the direction of under-promising, but for any individual person I'm pretty skeptical that this is good advice.

I've always interpreted "under-promise and over-deliver" as being about keeping your promises despite future unknowns. The simplest example I can think of: If you think some task will probably take 2 days, you say you'll do it in 3 days. If your original estimate was right, you'll be early, and others will just be pleasantly surprised (you over-delivered). If something unexpected comes up and your original estimate was too optimistic, you might still be able to do in the time you promised. Do this consistently, and you will get a reputation of delivering what you said you would.

Research article titles are descriptions of work already done, so I see them as "promises" of a different kind, and that's why the advice wouldn't apply. But if you said that you're going to write an article called "The Riemann hypothesis is true" before you have found a proof, then you're probably over-promising.

Campaign promises, on the other hand, are about future unknowns. I don't know much about campaigning, but I suspect politicians can get a way with over-promising better than most people, because the feedback cycle of elections is so slow.

From a webdev perspective this actually holds true. If we promise too much and deliver an underwhelming product the clients lose their minds. All those excuses never to pay.

are you, by any chance, a successful webdev though? I mean, are you, at least, a millionaire by being webdev? when you become one, then you can say this holds true.

Your argument, of under deliver and getting in trouble is something else entirely, not the opposition of OP's quote.

Economically it's my experience as a web dev that overselling is the best way to get more resources because people always fall in the trap of sunk cost.

It is easy to get more funding by whatever resource you want when you got at least a bit. For example, lets say I want to refactor a whole codebase and I oversell it to my boss that it will take only 2 weeks when in fact it will take 3. Very few managers will in my experience say no to you getting an extra week due to the sunk cost trap when they may say no if you said 3 weeks at the beginning.

Of course, people may get disgruntled and unhappy with you if this happens to frequently but it is a powerful phsycological trick you may use when you really need it.

Mathematics is actually one of the few remaining areas of intellectual pursuits which are by and large untainted by salesmanship. I hope it stays that way.

Theres nothing wrong with the idea of "advocacy". Often its right to make the best argument that you possibly can for a thing or a person. You just have to make sure that other people have the opportunity to advocate _their_ things or people. The rest of us make up our own minds about who we agree with the most, and in turn a healthy democracy emerges.

• A problem that can be solved with money is not really a problem.

I am broke and need X, which no one gives for free. Let's call X education, because that and time might solve everything. Is that not a problem worth calling so?

The version of this I've always heard is, "Any problem that can be solved by writing a check you can afford to write, is not really a problem."

So, if your car suddenly needs a $500 repair, and you have $2500 in emergency savings, that's not a "problem". It's a contingency you were prepared to handle.

> It's a contingency you were prepared to handle.

Which is a better way to phrase it:

A contingency you were prepared to handle is not a problem.

After all, a billionaire can still get lost at sea and die.

The version I heard was, "be prepared".

that's only if the car horn was broken /s (beep repaired)

My takeaway from it is if the problem requires money to solve, at least you are aware of the solution: money. It may be difficult or impossible to achieve that end, but at least you know it's the direction to go and can possibly make progress toward solving.

The worst kind of problem is one you can't see your way out of and no option seems to exist to escape it.

If you need a life-saving medicine and you don't have the money, it's a problem. Or at least the people that are dying think that way.

If we're being charitable, we could take "can" to include "you can (reasonably) afford it", as in "YOU can solve the problem with money", not "ONE could solve the problem with money, if one had money".

Given the tone of the rest of the piece, I'm not sure being that charitable is warranted, though. I'm legitimately having a hard time telling whether this list is presented seriously, or as some kind of parody.

> If we're being charitable

Or, in the spirit of taking it as parody, that it's at least a 'solved' problem[0] in the sense of the mathematician who sees a fire, sees a fire extinguisher, says "Ah, a solution exists!", and moves on.

0: where a solved (note lack of scare quotes) problem isn't really a problem.

It's more about recognizing second order effects.

If a problem can be solved with money, your real problem is not having the money.

>A problem that can be solved with money is not really a problem.

He means money that you have and can spare.

If you can pay someone to do something, that thing you are paying for is a problem which has already been solved by someone, therefore not a problem.

Some fun, interesting, true, and meh bits of wisdom here!

These 2 stuck out as ironic being back to back:

• I have never met a person I admired who did not read more books than I did.

• The greatest teacher is called “doing”.

Although without more context, its just a snap judgement. Admiring only people who are well read(assuming OP reads a lot) seems to leave a bit on the table.

>• I have never met a person I admired who did not read more books than I did.

I think Schopenhauer has good words of advice on this topic (and the irony of reading this advice in a book is not lost on me; emphasis mine):

>Hence, in regard to reading, it is a very important thing to be able to refrain. Skill in doing so consists in not taking into one's hands any book merely because at the time it happens to be extensively read; such as political or religious pamphlets, novels, poetry, and the like, which make a noise, and may even attain to several editions in the first and last year of their existence. Consider, rather, that the man who writes for fools is always sure of a large audience; be careful to limit your time for reading, and devote it exclusively to the works of those great minds of all times and countries, who o'ertop the rest of humanity, those whom the voice of fame points to as such. These alone really educate and instruct. You can never read bad literature too little, nor good literature too much. Bad books are intellectual poison; they destroy the mind. Because people always read what is new instead of the best of all ages, writers remain in the narrow circle of the ideas which happen to prevail in their time; and so the period sinks deeper and deeper into its own mire.

Chinese: 读万卷书,行万里路 - It is better to walk 10,000 miles than to read 10,000 scrolls.

In Kannada, 'desha sutti nodu, kosha odii kali" - Roam the world AND read the books - clubs both of them

But he didn’t say you shouldn’t read, only that you shouldn’t waste your time on the latest popular writing.

There are two verses in the Bible that are contradictory like that. "Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you yourself will be just like him" is one, the other is "Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes." The two verses are right next to each other (Proverbs 26:4-5), so the juxtaposition must have been intentional. My guess is that putting them together was intended to imply that some problems have no good answer.

"Advice like these are not laws. They are like hats. If one doesn’t fit, try another."

I preferred this one:

Un bon mot ne prouve rien.

Also available in English: a witty saying proves nothing.

Re: books. Surprisingly I met such a person recently. She does not read books at all these days, and haven't been in a while (except textbooks in academia years). Got PhD in physics, and doing well for herself.

I shall seek out this teacher, whose name I assume rhymes with "Boing".

Reading books seems to be put on a pedestal here and in other places online. I don’t read many I prefer doing and online video courses

In your defense, I'd say reading is put on a pedestal by our culture. Most would consider reading a book a more useful time investment than watching television, but I think it depends greatly on what book (trashy novel) and what television show (documentary).

As a reader (LOL) I find it to be a strong negative signal when someone identifies prominently as a reader, puts that in their Twitter bio, wears T-shirts or caries tote bags with reading-related slogans, et c. For some reason it usually turns out that they almost exclusively read young adult, trashy genre fiction, thrillers, romance novels, that kind of thing. Which is fine! I read garbage sometimes too! It's fun! But people who watch reality TV, 24-hour news, and Lifetime movies, don't wear shirts with... hold on, let me find some of these reader t-shirts with an image search:

"Obsessive TV-Watching Disorder" or "TV watchers gonna TV watch" or "Eat Sleep TV-Watch" or "Never underestimate the power of a girl with a TV"

Not sure why things are that way, but I'd go out of my way not to broadcast a "reader" identity, for this reason.

Thanks! I am talking more about courses online that are specifically designed to educate.

I think most books are 90% of business/self help is filled with stuff to make them a saleable book. Fluff. No one will pay $10-$50 for a 3 page PDF. But I prefer the 3 page PDF. Ironically often information in that format is free!

Seeing a psychologist > self help book. Making money on a side hussle > reading 0 to 1. Doing a course on freecodecamp > buying a coding textbook. Etc.

Books can be great but there has to be a big reason to commit to reading 300 pages. History books I will accept for example.

Many self-help books start as articles then are expanded into book-length pieces with fluff. You’re correct, but I suspect you got the downvotes because you said “books” without qualification. As you note, self-help != history.

If I’m interpreting correctly, you’re asserting that doing things is better than reading about them, which I agree with. But I can buy a coding book and do all the exercises, sample problems, and create projects for myself based on the material and potentially get more from it than someone doing a course. Especially if they aren’t terribly engaged.

Or to put it another way: “You wasted $150,000 on an education you coulda got for $1.50 in late fees at the public library.”

Business/self help is likely not the bulk of books being sold.

Probably airport fiction right?

Uh... you probably want to complete that paragraph with a "and still I have achieved XYZ in life", otherwise you're just an anonymous commenter :-\

I can complete the paragraph with anything from "average person" to "nobel prize" and statistically and logically there is no conclusion you can draw from it.

> The worst evils in history have always been committed by those who truly believed they were combating evil. Beware of combating evil.

Am I just showcasing my own ignorance by wanting support for this claim?

I've heard it stated elsewhere, but I've never heard a detailed argument supporting it. The closest justification I recall hearing is a vague reference to the Spanish Inquisition.

If you believe your enemy is truly and irredeemably evil, what tactics are allowed to eradicate that evil?

Technically, anything should be allowed, because removing that evil from the world would be an undeniable good. To find that evil, you should be allowed to do anything to anyone trying to hide that evil from you. As a matter of fact, anyone trying to shelter that evil or sides with that evil shares some of the guilt as well. They are just as evil as the evil you wish to eradicate. So, once again, nothing is off limits.

Ridicule? Allowed. Lying to them? Allowed. Stealing from them? Allowed. Torture? Allowed. Murder? Allowed.

And if you're allowed to do these things and actually do them, at what point are you not just a different flavor of the same evil? What separates you from them?

The only thing you needed to become your most depraved self was an excuse.

Some actions are wrong. And there are some lines we shouldn't cross. No matter how evil you think someone is, that does not justify certain actions. And some actions should only be reserved for certain circumstances and those circumstances never happen to be "I think he's evil".

Quoth dril, the scholar of our times:

> the wise man bowed his head solemnly and spoke: "theres actually zero difference between good & bad things. you imbecile. you fucking moron"


Think about the people who did the most evil things you can think of. Were they really certain they were fighting evil? Contrast with people who you think were admirable. Did they think they were fighting evil?

These are aphorisms, not essays. You either recognize (high-level) wisdom in them, or you don't.

> These are aphorisms, not essays.

That's a good observation. I agree that it's reasonable to treat them as aphorisms.

But even if we allow for a certain amount of hyperbole in aphorisms, I would think there's some threshold of factual accuracy that we want before accepting a given aphorism.

That, and simple curiosity, are what motivated my original question.

Torquemada, Robespierre, Lenin, Cromwell. You already mentioned the Spanish Inquisition, so we’ll skip Torquemada. Robespierre was for a French Republic, and was willing to kill whomever to get it, and was eventually guillotined himself. Lenin helped end Tsarist Russia, then purged a bunch of people during the Red Terror. Cromwell helped create a republic after killing a tyrant that believed in the divine right of kings and didn’t want a constitutional monarchy, and then more or less genocided Irish Catholics.

I think where you really see this is in any case where one group identifies another group that they perceive to be their oppressor and then having done so, imagine themselves to be justified in leveling a retributive response. (The example I used in another comment above was the mass enslavement and starvation of the kulaks in revolutionary Russia on the grounds that they had been oppressors of the proletariat.)

Mother Teresa is likely to be a good example as long as you believe she thought she was doing gods work and agree that the details of how she did that are reprehensible.

What is reprehensible about how she did what she did?

As with most things, Wikipedia will get you started:


A relevant quote from there summarizing some of them:

"caring for the sick by glorifying their suffering instead of relieving it, ... her questionable political contacts, her suspicious management of the enormous sums of money she received, and her overly dogmatic views regarding, in particular, abortion, contraception, and divorce".

Her "overly dogmatic views regarding, in particular, abortion, contraception, and divorce" are, I suspect, orthodox Catholic doctrine. As for the rest, critics criticize. She sure wasn't using the money she received to get personally rich. She was working with/caring for people that nobody else was. While less than perfect, I'm not seeing "reprehensible" anywhere in the substance of the criticism.

(Read the "Responses to criticism" section of that article for a decent explanation of why most of the criticism is completely missing the point.)

This is not the main point of the criticism. The issue is that she raised millions in money that was not used for her cause of taking care of suffering people in India. Instead, the bulk of the money was sent to religious causes and to the Vatican.

At the risk of Godwining this thread, Hitler was really, really convinced that Jews were evil schemers that dealt in betrayal, fraud and conspiracy against innocent and naive Gentiles. And that their destruction was a necessary step to cleanse the Earth off their evil.

The end result: Auschwitz.

It goes back even further, actually, and provides another data-point for this aphorism. The Teutonic Order, a sort of ... indirect relative/precursor [0] to the German Empire/Republic which the Nazis grew in was notorious for doing some really horrific things in the name of God, and in trying to force convert the lands north of Prussia/Poland. The surrounding Christians states didn't really approve of this, and eventually pushed them back. They seemed to be pretty obsessed themselves with the idea that other Christians were backstabbing and betraying their cause.

It seems their cause was, originally, in good intentions. I'll give them the benefit of the doubt at least. But it's clear by the end they fulfilled this aphorism, and became a great evil by trying to fight evil.

[0] The Teutonic Order held land, the "Deutschordensstaat". When Martin Luther convinced the then-Grand-Master Albert to convert, he turned that land into a secular state, the Duchy of Prussia, which became the Kingdom of Prussia, which became the leading state of the German Empire.

I agree, but I also imagine all those fighting the Nazis also thought they were fighting evil. Should they have "beware fighting evil"?

Carpet bombing of German cities was, in hindsight, probably not just evil but militarily inefficient. The official goal - to disrupt industrial production - was never really achieved.

Yes. After seeing what the Nazis had done, those that fought the Nazis would have been justified in exacting immediate justice by killing all of them.

Thankfully - they didn't.

"The road to hell is paved with good intentions."

This is why we should always judge projects based on whether we value their goals and how effective they are at accomplishing those goals.

This is a classical logical fallacy. To give an extreme example:

The worse evils in history have always been committed by those who drink water. Beware of drinking water.

It may be the case that those who commit evils believed they were combating evil. It doesn't at all mean that the majority of those who believe they are combating evil are committing evil.

You'll note that the tyrants of world history have often said directly that their actions are justified by the need to fight evil. I don't recall any claiming that their actions were justified by drinking water or brushing their teeth or eating apples or enjoying the cinema of any of a million other random correlations we might imagine. But they have claimed explicitly that fighting evil was a direct cause of their actions (as have their supporters and adherents). That's why we have reason to believe the relationship might be causal. (Not every claim of causation demands a "correlation isn't causation" response.)

This doesn't address my comment at all, and you're not disagreeing with me.

To address your comment another way, the majority of drunk drivers make it home safely, but drunk driving is a bad pattern that leads to bad outcomes. It does no good to point out that most drunk drivers actually make it home just fine (and it's certainly not fallacious to warn others that drunk driving leads to negative outcomes, even if it actually usually doesn't).

The belief that one is fighting evil is a standard negative pattern in human behavior. One should watch out for it, even if it sometimes works out ok, because when it doesn't you just crossed the center line and killed a family of four on their way to grandma's.

The difference, though, is that there is little good you can say about drunk drivers. There are no known positive outcomes of driving while drunk.

However, plenty of good does come out of people striving to fight evil. Trivial examples are having a justice system (even with all its down sides).

I know HN hates joke responses, but it's late in this thread and nobody is paying attention anyway, so what the hell :)


My interpretation is:

"... by those and only those who [...] combat evil"

forall X: combats_evil(X) <=> does_evil(X)

but not

forall X: drinks_water(X) <=> does_evil(X)

"Combating" here likely means doing evil things in order to combat other evil things. For example, the "Inferno" movie's plot was to release a virus to downsize the population in order to combat global warming.

I think even that's too generous. It can also mean misidentifying and mislabeling (or at the very least, overreacting to) the causes of something one thinks is evil. One might decide, for example, that the workers in early 20th century Russia have been unfairly oppressed by the kulaks and then, upon determining therefore that those kulaks meet a standard for "evil," sleep soundly carrying out actions that result in their mass enslavement and starvation (all in the name of fighting oppression).

this one really stuck with me: “The foundation of maturity: Just because it’s not your fault doesn’t mean it’s not your responsibility.”

heck. that's just true. really put into words something i've taken a while to learn (and am still learning).

Heh - reminds me of one of the lessons I learned a little hard:

Just because someone backs his position by faulty logic does not make his position any less correct.

We often declare it the responsibility of the one asserting a claim to prove/convince us. However, if you seek to know the truth, the responsibility lies only in you.

> When playing Monopoly, spend all you have to buy, barter, or trade for the Orange properties. Don’t bother with Utilities.

This one struck me as being particularly random, even in a list of pretty random items. Can anyone with Monopoly mojo expand on this?


Statistically, the Orange property set is one of the most frequented sets in the game due to the approximately 37% chance of landing on one upon the first turn after leaving jail; the most visited space on the board. In combination with a relatively cheap development cost, the Orange property set can be valuable to own.

Way back when, my DiffEq prof did a Markov chain model to compute the probability of visiting each space on a Monopoly board. It shows exactly what you state. It's actually kind of a fun problem to think about. Sort of an early Markov-chain-101 homework-question-sized problem. The state transitions to Jail, and the resulting state transitions out of Jail, put a strong bias on visiting Orange. And then, yes, the development costs on that side of the board make the ROI attractive.

> Be strict with yourself and forgiving of others. The reverse is hell for everyone.

I think this is generally good advice, but it's equally important to not be too hard on yourself. You have to learn to forgive yourself for mistakes.

> You can reduce the annoyance of someone’s stupid belief by increasing your understanding of why they believe it.

My favorite. “Write 2 essays, one defending each side” is the most valuable kind of assignment, in my opinion.

> Money is overrated. Truly new things rarely need an abundance of money. If that was so, billionaires would have a monopoly on inventing new things, and they don’t. Instead almost all breakthroughs are made by those who lack money, because they are forced to rely on their passion, persistence and ingenuity to figure out new ways. Being poor is an advantage in innovation.

Completely disagree. A lot of the great innovations actually came from people who were already wealthy enough that they could spend time contemplating instead of figuring out where their next meal was coming from.

I just learned how to tie a bowline knot.

5 stars

Learning how to use knots is just so satisfying, I don't know what it is, I can't really put my finger on it.

I agree! I recall a time when I spent an hour in a home depot parking lot strapping down lumber to the roof of my car practicing the trucker's hitch.


One of my favorites. You can really make things tight which is such an advantage when tying things down.

It's something out of nothing. It's the same rope with the same properties. You haven't added any extra materials. But now you have a strong loop.

I think it's a similar feeling to building programs. You combine small elements together in the right way and you get something more useful than the sum of its parts.

>> I can't really put my finger on it.

Plus 1

Nuts. I mean knots.

what have you used it on?

It's useful for when you need a loop and a secure knot that won't slip or become undone. Basically where you would do a regular knot but need more knot strength.

I've used it for securing crab pods, pulling out a small tree, hanging decorations from ceiling hooks, as the front anchor for strapping down things to the top of my car, connecting lines to kites and tying the tea bag string to the handle of my coworkers mug as a prank to name a few uses of the top of my head.

I've also used it for climbing in certain situations but I would highly recommend learning the figure 8 and using that for all climbing things related.

Won't become undone and is easy to undo, I would add.

You can put a very high weight on it, and it'll still be easy to untangle afterwards.

• Money is overrated.

In my experience, never said by people who have been poor

• If you can’t tell what you desperately need, it’s probably sleep.

Agree completely!

I grew up dirt poor and I think money is overrated. Not for the cases which the page describes though, that's total nonsense bordering on fetishization.

* Water is overrated. In my experience, never said by the thirsty in middle of desert.

However, unlike water or most things, money seems to be the few things that people who have enough still want more.

The one I really don't like is "Always say less than necessary."

I've never seen any good come from withholding necessary information.

> The one I really don't like is "Always say less than necessary."

> I've never seen any good come from withholding necessary information.

Surely being selective with information is advantageous in negotiations?

The use of the word "necessary" implies that anything less is insufficient.

I see a lot of people knit picking over some particular item on this list or another, and this strikes me as a very unfortunate response to philosophy. The advice is not given as a set of arguments or syllogisms, so if some piece doesn't agree with you it does little to contradict the broader work. There is a ton of good advice here that is worth repeating. Personally, I really appreciate how it blends practical advice with ethical advice, as well as how there are deeper implication for practical aphorisms ('If you think you saw a mouse, you did. And, if there is one, there are more.')

No matter what use ECC RAM; you may have 99 bits but the problem is one.

"I got 99 popcount but the parity ain't one"

With a really tight knot where you can't find a place to start, don't pull, push. Knead and squeeze at it long enough, and you'll find some looseness somewhere. That's usually all you need.

• Compliment people behind their back. It’ll come back to you.

Such a hard thing to quantify – and attempting to quantify it misses the point – but I think this is such an under appreciated point.

I know that I am quick to gossip or talk about other people's failings behind their back. Partly, I think it is easy for people to relate to each other based on a shared view of someone else. And, unfortunately, I think it is easier to come up with negative examples to talk about.

Imagine if more of us found opportunities to say something good about someone just because.

Opportunities of this kind are not found, but made.

> Jesus, Superman, and Mother Teresa never made art. Only imperfect beings can make art because art begins in what is broken.

Spoken like someone who has never done even a cursory glance into Mother Teresa.

> Leave a gate behind you the way you first found it.

Not sure this one is generally applicable. When I'm out running are walking trails I always close gates unless there appears to be specific reason not to. Some people carelessly leave them open, some do so accidentally, some mistakenly think it should be left open because it was when they went through but there has been a steady flow if people leaving it for the next one and the first opened it.

That seems... questionable. Some leave them open to signify that it's ok to go through them. Some leave them open because they don't want to have to reopen them when they come back on the tractor.

You can either choose to assume other people did what they did on purpose, or assume that you always know better. This is espousing the former.

The amount of "please close gates" signs you see, and complaints about people not doing so, leads me to believe that generally speaking the land owners want the gates closed.

If I see a gate propped open on the other hand, then yes this is almost certainly deliberate, quite likely by someone working the area rather than by some random, and I'd leave it as is after passing through.

> • If something fails where you thought it would fail, that is not a failure.

Well, if you thought you'd get a negative result (or failure of something) and then a negative result occurs, the result is still negative, it's just that your expectations were not betrayed. You may have successfully predicted the negative result, but that doesn't change the result was still negative.

Can someone explain this? It doesn't seem to really make much sense.

Imagine someone designing a bridge. They predict that the weakest point is X, and that the bridge could therefore best be strengthened by strengthening X. But the reasoning is complex, so someone builds a model (or a simulation, or...) and stresses it until it breaks. If it broke at X, then the design was a success.

A different kind of example: I once owned (or my wife did...) a food processor, which if you weren't around back then, is cannister with a motorized blade. A part that connected the motor shaft to the blade broke. I took it to the place with the repair parts (this was before the internet), and was told this part frequently failed. I asked why they didn't make it stronger. The reply: if it was too strong to fail, then when you were chopping something that was too hard for the processor, either the motor would burn out, which would be expensive to fix, or the blades would snap, which could be dangerous. The engineer therefore included a relatively frail part to serve as the cheap and safe failure point.

What does “ Always cut away from yourself” mean?

when using a knife, make the direction of force and the blade be in a direction which does not include you (or others, for what it's worth)

Ohhh okay. I thought it was more metaphor than literal.

> If you think you saw a mouse, you did. And, if there is one, there are more.

There are 6. Source: experience

> • Bad things can happen fast, but almost all good things happen slowly.

This one hit me.

My last relationship came very suddenly. From day one, things seemed intensely good. Then one day, things became, well, intensely bad.

The phrase is obvious now I see it but I didn't recognize while I lived it.

Of fasteners: know the reverse-threading exceptions as well.


I can't say I enjoy everything KK writes and I went in a bit biased thinking I probably wouldn't find the list particularly useful but turns out I agree with many of the bits from personal experience.

> • Always cut away from yourself.

I like this link but but I don't know what that means

When using a knife, saw, axe, etc. or other cutting implement always make sure the blade is moving away from all parts of your body.

My granddad being a woodworking teacher, I learned that lesson early on.

However when redecorating my house there were several occasions where it simply was not possible to do that. I usually countered my cutting hand with my "free" hand, effectively pushing my cutting hand away from my body as I performed the cut. At least then I had pretty good control in the event my blade were to slip.

Ahhh - literal. I was thinking figuratively


Literal: move the blade / cutting edge away from you.

Figurative: apply hazardous effort in a manner that it dissipates in the direction or mode of least harm.

My father in law has one rule: Don't get any blood on it.

I learned it as:

"Never get yourself bloody. Always cut towards a buddy."

cut towards your chum, not your thumb

> • Be strict with yourself and forgiving of others. The reverse is hell for everyone.

I think this is so wrong (at least for me). Be less strict with myself is what improved my mood (not only) the most.

For every one of that aphorisms, you can have/do too much. That should also be on this list. In poland we have saying "Overzeal is worse than fascism".

> In all things — except love — start with the exit strategy. Prepare for the ending. Almost anything is easier to get into than out of.

This is good advice but you should definitely include love.

100. In a long list of advice, use numbers instead of bullet points. Makes it easier to share to others. :D

Most of the advise are really good though.

Well, there's an interesting amount of proof that Mother Teresa could indeed make a lot of art, really tons of art, it seems...

Great advice. Looking at the headline, I thought this article was originally about bit-encoding, since it mentioned 99 bits.

"The only thing to do with good advice is to pass it on. It is never of any use to oneself." - Oscar Wilde

Quote: "Recipe for success: under-promise and over-deliver."

I beg to differ. All I have to do is look at any, I mean ANY, country regardless of east/west culture/region and see that the politicians are always over-promise and under-deliver. You want a recipe for success? Become a politician, if you have the stomach for it (I, for one, don't).

I prefer a taut-line hitch, but generally very good advice here.

“ • The worst evils in history have always been committed by those who truly believed they were combating evil. Beware of combating evil.”

The early Marxists were trying to create the übermensch and ended up sparking untold misery that killed a couple hundred million. I wonder what evil is being referenced here.

Did anyone else also count them to make sure there were 99?

The porch one was oddly specific.

It is, and it's also surprisingly true. Something that I really love about this list is how it blends theoretical/ethical advice about how to behave with practical advice like learning how to tie a bowline knot.

This about as fun as the sunscreen song, and mostly as useful.

> measure twice, cut once.

Measure never, cut wherever!

I measure thrice, then cut the wrong side off. I've done that countless times.


> When hitchhiking, look like the person you want to pick you up.

Who has gone hitchhiking in the past 20 years, honestly?

> almost all breakthroughs are made by those who lack money, because they are forced to rely on their passion, persistence and ingenuity to figure out new ways. Being poor is an advantage in innovation

I mean, define "lack" here. Because actually poor people don't become inventors.

It's a list of platitudes. Old platitudes too - was there a reference to Mother Teresa in there??

Really depends where you live for the hitchhiking thing. Its pretty common in small towns / small islands

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