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General Advice

A collection of general advice.

Last updated on: February 18, 2021

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Taking advice

Taking advice is a tricky thing.

Should You Reverse Any Advice You Hear?

Take it as Boilerplate advice.

It’s really hard to target advice at exactly the people who need it.

High School (10–20)

  1. Gain Perspective (“Obtain true understanding of the relative importance of things”)
  2. Discover Strengths (“Become aware of capacity for endurance”)
  3. Focus Action (“Place the focus on the process of doing”)

Perspective: Understand how far we’ve come.

Strengths: Find where you can make the most change.

Action: Actually make change.

  • Best way to gain perspective: history, experience
  • Best way to discover strengths: try things
  • Best way to focus action: build habits

I wrote what you just read above in my graduating year. High school is the time for finding and exploring whatever inklings you have right now.

My biggest regret of this time was not realizing that nobody expects anything from you. It feels like there’s a lot of social pressure, but unless something truly extraordinary happens, soon nobody will remember or care.

You are free to get into whatever you want.

You are a young ball of possibility and people will love to support you in your endeavors (people love seeing themselves in others). So chase whatever interests you find.

The means of learning are abundant; the desire to learn is scarce. Become someone who learns on their own rather than needing someone else to tell you.

There are other young people building. You don’t need permission to build. Your age is not a restrictor to making things. Simply start building and document your learnings along the way.

It’s so much easier to eat another piece of cake, start another episode, stay up late, and procrastinate than it is to do work that benefits your future self.

Your present self doesn’t give a damn about your future self.

Temporal discounting is a thing, and it’s a battle between present and future self.

If you have two choices, choose the harder. If you’re trying to decide whether to go out running or sit home and watch TV, go running. Probably the reason this trick works so well is that when you have two choices and one is harder, the only reason you’re even considering the other is laziness. You know in the back of your mind what’s the right thing to do, and this trick merely forces you to acknowledge it. (Paul Graham)

It’s easier to favor your present self at the expense of your future self. But do your best to spend your time in a way that benefits your future self.

You can still watch your shows and do whatever you do, but spend just 1% of time chasing an inkling, and you’ll be 99% ahead of everyone else.

Think school is dumb and useless? Good, now go do something smart and useful.

No one becomes a baseball fan because they read the baseball textbook and did well on the baseball test.

Learning is free. Writing is free. Coding is free. If you want to learn, you don’t need a university — you need discipline.

Learn how to understand things.

Learn how to learn.

Read books above your level.

Actually, if you want one piece of advice it’s this: read, read read.

When he was asked where he graduated from college, he would simply answer, “Books.”

Books are resilient in the face of apps, attention monsters, and an ad-driven online economy.

Read your fucking ass off.

Learn how to read. Learn how to read again. Learn how to read news. Again.

Here’s my list of transformative books. Though, what was gold to me could easily be dust to you.

And then my second piece of advice is this: write.

It’s hard at first. What do you write about? Who are you writing for? I don’t know, but there’s only one way to find out. Try things. Do whatever piques your interest the most. See what other people are doing and see if it works for you.

Good things come to those who write.

You should write.

Truth is, you don’t know, you won’t know, you’ll never know until you know and reflect back on something real. And the best way to find out, is to believe in it, make it, and put it out there. You do your best, you promote it the best you can, you prepare yourself the best way you know how. And then you literally cross your fingers. I’m not kidding. (Validation is a mirage)

You’re not stupid for not knowing. Try not to feel stupid for not knowing. Try not to be scared to show up. Stop fighting shadows.

Expand your horizons. Increase the number of perspectives you can take. Find better mental models.

Often, there’s no way to tell if what you’re doing will help you in the future.

And it’s up to you to explore.

What You’ll Wish You’d Known by Paul Graham for a high school talk

Advice I’d give past me if you’re 10–20 by Patrick Collison

College (~19–23)

If you weren’t already, it’s time to start caring about your relationships.

The days are long but the decades are short by Sam Altman

More when I can look back on years.

Job

Idk yet, but here are some links:

Life

Where to find the hours to make it happen? The hours don’t suddenly appear. You have to steal them from comfort. Whatever you were doing before was comfortable. This is not. This will be really uncomfortable.

Everyone gets the same 24 hours. Reset every day, a fresh start.

Drugs

Almost entirely forgot about this huge topic because the only medicine I regularly take is too much coffee and tea. But this is a huge topic in the sense that from a young age you’re beaten over the head with “drugs are bad!”

Are drugs bad? Some, sure, but the world isn’t black and white. And we’re curious creatures. I never found any of the “Don’t do drugs” very useful. Painting it black isn’t helpful, it’s denying reality and easily subverted in the mind by pointing out coffee, or, even better medicine.

But, I have no reserve in saying addiction to a substance is bad. More on this later. For now, if you’re curious about something, or hesitant about it, then learn about it.

Whenever I hear about somebody doing something I look it up in Erowid.

Here’s a list of common things. Check them out and make up your own mind with your risk tolerance. Make sure to check out the list of effects—there’s more than you think.

I’m privileged enough to not be involved with drugs outside of coffee, but if you need a reason to stay away from them, Erowid has plenty of stories, but the story of SpontaneousH takes the cake for me.

The story of SpontaneousH is a documented spiral of how little it takes to turn into a heroin addict.

Addictive substances rip apart lives. But people start using them to try to mend their lives in some way or another. Whether you’re looking to fit in, or get away from something.

To live is to suffer, to survive is to find some meaning in the suffering. (Friedrich Nietzsche)

The waves never stop coming. And when it washes over you, you know that somehow you will, again, come out the other side. Soaking wet, sputtering, still hanging on to some tiny piece of the wreckage, but you’ll come out.