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Thursday, 29 January 2004


Good definition, questionable classification.
Thanks for the definition, I think it's a clear enough picture of a '21st century hero'. But like jana in the comment section of the previous post, I don't think it's immediately obvious that Erik is outside the group of 'efficient individuals'.

Furthermore, couldn't any degree of outsidership to an important extent be explained by lack of eagerness for being entirely inside?

Wouldn't you feel bad when you are late (because of some reason you won't tell) and have to blame heavy traffic and it's a lie because you never see a red light? Pursuading in debates - couldn't that be indicative of debating with people lacking the ability to persuade you? Gambling profits, won't they risk to make you turn your back at work and life? Spotted in a crowd - what about privacy? etc, etc...

Of course it's hard, unbearably hard sometimes, to be and ineffective indivdual. But sometimes it's darn good too.

Nail Hit on Head
I think you're right to think of it like a bottom-up classification. Let your effectiveness evolve. You can drive yourself crazy with abstractions ;-) But having said that, I've managed to give myself 4 broadish goals this year, which I think will motivate me enough to do the groundwork necessary to achieve them. eg one of my goals is to be paper-published - that's a broad goal, but it provides enough incentive (I hope) for me to do the actual work required to achieve it and thus be effective.

On the topic of whether humans can create something as complex as the human brain, I agree that we probably can't. However it could be done by bootstrapping: we (humans) end up building something incredibly complex, but not equivalent to the human brain yet; but that complex thing we built is capable of self-learning etc so it evolves itself into something that equates to the human brain; eventually it surpasses the human brain and evolves into an evil AI creature that ends up destroying the world and all humanity. Oh... damn abstractions.

Many of your examples have pretty clear implicit goals (gambling for profit, unless maybe you're William Bennett).

In other cases there's lot of question: is the goal in work to get credit? I guess it's one goal, but is it your primary goal when you do something?

Another book recommendation (which I've only browsed): Core Transformation

I may be effective occasionally, but the purpose of the definition was to show that it's not actually an indicator of anything valuable to be effective. It's not an indicator of having goals to have gotten the green light. I may get credit at work, or I may not, regardless of whether or not I wanted to or deserve it... however, the person who does get credit is given credit as a label of their effectiveness.

To be effective is a state that we strive for because it brings satisfaction, but it doesn't necessarily have any real connection to intentions, goals, or skills much of the time.

I sometimes console myself with the fact that I can be classified as an effective individual... it is a satisfaction derived from the fact that someone else (other than me) can really call me a failure. That doesn't stop me (who knows more about my intentions (or lack thereof) from calling myself a failure (not that I necessarily do, but I could if I wanted).

In case it wasn't clear, I am not currently leaning towards adopting "become an effective individual" as a big goal.

Richard, I too once had the goal of being paper published. But I wouldn't classify that as a big goal... it's a medium sized one, a stepping stone. The big one would explain why you want to be paper published--is it so that you have evidence of being an effective writer? Is it so that you can have enough money to quit a non-writing job? What is the big goal that drives a year-long goal like yours? Year long goals are easy to make and justify, but 5 year goals are more difficult, and 50 year goals are trying to kill me.

Fair call, a 1-year goal can't be classified as a "Big Goal". The way I try to look at it, which may or may not be a naive viewpoint, is that our goals evolve over time. I don't even try to create "lifetime goals" anymore, because I know that circumstances will change over time. Who am I to second-guess what life will be like in 10 years? Maybe in 10 years time the novel as an art form will be completely dead and buried, superceded by a new form of cyber-communication in which the english language as we now know it no longer exists - therefore neither do novels. Or to come back to reality - 15 years ago I didn't know the Web existed. So any lifetime goals I made back then involving my career or even my writing have been completely usurped by the arrival of the World Wide Web, which is now my over-riding obsession.

I don't know how to explain it fully here, but I see myself as an evolving "thing" whose Big Goals are subconciously tied into "what I am". Man, that's a hopeless explanation! Using an example, I like to think one of my Big Goals is to become a Writer (with a pompous capital letter). I don't know *why* I want to be a Writer, but I do know it's a part of who I am and that I am at least mildy talented at it. You ask, what is driving my year-long goal? It is that I am (or think I am) a Writer.

Am I saying that I don't believe in explicit Big Goals?? Maybe... Or maybe I'm just saying Big Goals are just too damn hard to codify - too many variables!! Maybe they're as impossible as coding a human brain?

ps I had a bit of a liquid lunch, so pardon me if this all sounds like a load of BS :-)

The Big Goals are probably more valuable in the present than as things you'll see all the way through. Whether or not novels are still around 10 years from now, you should have a clear idea about why you're trying to get published--and it looks like you do, to fulfill your perception of yourself as a Writer. Unfortunately, I don't have a matching perception of myself to work from... which is the whole problem.

Having a big goal like that is helpful right now, because it allows you to make smaller goals off of it... if things change in two years, you can change the big goal at that point, still looking 10 years or so into the future, etc.

A few observations as I slowly wrap my head around this (sorry if it is tremendously boring to most people who have all of this figured out):

* Small goals are easy to have because they usually assume a system in which they're working. Publishing a book is a goal that has a boolean result (yes I did it or no I didn't), so it's easy to make and measure, and exists within the larger goal of becoming a successful writer.
* Large goals are difficult to have because, in the end, we don't like to think of our lives as having a boolean result. I made a million dollars, therefore I lived a worthwhile life. I have a family and two cars, therefore I lived a worthwhile life. If you can reduce the biggest goal to a boolean result, it makes life look cheap and formulaic.
* If you have no big goals, and only small goals, your life is reduced to a collection of boolean results, and that helps distract you from the fact that no single boolean result is in itself a worthwhile life, but as a whole you might be willing to squint your eyes and say "eh... looks about right."
* Also, as soon as you have a big goal, and it's measureable by a "yes I did or no I didn't" output, it becomes almost essential that you consider gaming that goal--manipulating intentions to reach the end. So, you have to choose between reaching your goal and keeping your integrity on some level, and that is a decision that would be very difficult to make. If you kept your integrity, that's shifting your goal from a result to an intangible. If you choose to game, you're forced to put all your heart's content on the end, even though you sacrificed some of your principles to get there.

I didn't really do a good job of articulating those thoughts, but I think I'm getting closer. To what?

apt quotes
For whatever reason, these quotes seem apt:

"The secret of life is to have a task, something you devote your entire life to, something you bring everything to, every minute of the day for the rest of your life. And the most important thing is, it must be something you cannot possibly do."
- Henry Moore

"You're probably not thinking seriously of becoming a stoker, but that's precisely the easiest way to become one." - Franz Kafka, "The Stoker"

50 year goals
"50 year goals" - I know it's probably very difficult to get there, but what about great grandchildren who now and then visit you?

goal vs mission
(Boy was my irony detector turned off there at first..)

I tend to think of the long-term more as a Mission than a Goal. Or maybe it's a Direction. Either way it's not binary.

Then you make some MediumGoals that are pretty operational (binary or nearly so) that are consistent with that Direction.

Then Projects supporting 1 or more of the goals.

Writing a book is a Project.

While it's probably good not to have too many (more than 1?) Directions (vector math?), there are always multiple constraining parameters (e.g. "have integrity"). These place limits on Gaming.

Even a Project isn't necessarily binary, to the extent that you meta-evaluate it in terms of it supporting your Direction.

(Yeah, like I have my shit together...)

The feeling of purposefulness is related to your energy level. Above a certain threshold it simply springs into being. Your energy level is related to your health, how much you enjoy what you are currently doing, and how much you can save up. Saving up energy is simply a matter of letting go of things you shouldn't really be caring about so much. (like your self-image) Finding what you enjoy doing is a matter of experimentation. Your body will tell you. It is the arrogance and stupidity of the mind to think it knows a-priori what will make your body feel good.

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