On Finding It

For most of my life I was chasing after “it”. I always thought that I’d find “it” in what I was pursuing at the time—whether it was getting into a particular college, getting a particular job or having a particular crush like me back. What is “it”? It’s hard to put into words, but “it” refers to a feeling of significance, a feeling of having finally arrived, a feeling of deeper and more complete meaning than we tend to find in the drudgery of the everyday....

July 20, 2021

Reject claims of ultimate ruination

When describing the trajectories of other people’s lives, we sometimes make statements that I’ll call claims of ultimate ruination. They take the form of “X ruined his life”, where X is a very specific event or experience. Whatever X was, it changed the person’s life permanently and irredeemably. Examples of X: a breakup, a professional failure, an unsettling spiritual experience, an injury. These claims are appealing in their drama and simplicity, and terrifying in their implications....

June 9, 2021

On believing you will fail

Here’s something I wish I realized earlier: believing you will fail does not mean you will fail. You can succeed in spite of a lack of confidence in yourself. As a teenager and young adult I struggled to develop confidence in several areas of my life, from academics to social status to romantic relationships. I was dogged by insecurities about not being smart enough, not being interesting enough, not being attractive enough....

May 28, 2021

Life as problem-solving

A key part of happiness is understanding the role and nature of problem-solving in life. We are always solving problems. A problem can be defined as a conflict between ideas. The process of solving it requires the creation (and testing) of new ideas. Here are examples of problems: how do I relieve this back pain? how do we enable knowledge workers to collaborate more effectively? how do we reduce poverty?...

May 19, 2021

The importance of documenting (and subsequently sharing) your ideas

Many people have talked about this but I’d like to share my framing of it. As we grow, our ideas change. The way we see the world shifts. We update our political inclinations, philosophical stances, personal values, and understanding of things. Sometimes this is a sudden shift, precipitated by a profound experience or insight. But it usually happens more slowly than that. It can occur so slowly that it’s imperceptible – you only notice it after your worldview has already changed dramatically....

May 12, 2021

Facing fears in a dream

My dream this morning looked like this: I was with a group of people, we were stuck in a classroom-like place, and some authority was keeping us trapped there. We wanted to escape, but leaving the room meant entering the hall, and in the hall we could be shot. So we ran out and kept ducking into corridors and doorways to avoid being in the line of fire. I remember waiting anxiously in a doorway, figuring out what I should do, seeing friends jumping in and getting hurt....

April 18, 2021

Salon on Knowledge

I hosted a conversation yesterday about knowledge and epistemology. I opened the convo with this presentation, covering: (i) the justified-true-belief view of knowledge, (ii) Popper’s/Deutsch’s alternative framing of knowledge, and (iii) defining a few words like skepticism, rationalism, empiricism, and relativism. Consciousness and knowing One of the first things that came up was a question about consciousness and whether conscious truths are the only truths we can be “sure” about....

April 16, 2021

What they don't tell you when you're applying to college

If you’ve grown up in an environment that values prestige and extrinsic accomplishments, applying to college is a major milestone. It’s the culminating event for years of effort: AP exams, extracurriculars, impressing your teachers for reference letters. All for a shot at getting that coveted acceptance letter in the mail. My own experience with college applications was as stressful as you’d expect. I was surrounded by peers who were thirsting for admission to a prestigious university and who felt the pressure to succeed from all directions....

January 31, 2021