Essays & Thoughts ~ Chris Lakin

2021 March #1

Hello! This edition of Essays and Thoughts has two new essays, and thoughts on ‘unbounded’ opportunities.


Essays

Advice

A letter to my past self:

When listening to advice from others, expect to only achieve as much as they have achieved.

If you wouldn’t switch places with someone in the area you’d like to improve, if you don’t envy where they are, don’t listen! Don’t even ask—their opinions will likely bias you.

(This includes me!)

For example, your family may want the best for you, but often they will know little about the topic they are advising you on.

Good intentions ≠ good outcomes.


Lemons

You can squeeze every drop from one area of life, or you can get the 80/20 from multiple areas.

You’re given lemons. To make the most juice in the least time, you should only spend a few seconds squeezing each lemon. The majority of the juice will come out immediately, and then rest will come out in a trailing patter thereafter. 80% of the output for 20% of the input.

For every specific individual lemon, this seems inefficient, but in aggregate it’s the most effective strategy!

Optimizing for the whole often means deliberately not optimizing for the parts.

The output of squeezing the lemons of life follows marginal returns. So it’s best to get the minimum effective, maximally time-efficient amount from each, and then move on to the next.

You can come back later to get the trivial 20%, but ultimately every activity has opportunity costs: every lemon you get 95% from is four you got 0% from; every lemon you get 99% from is ten you got 0% from.

Thus, do not be a perfectionist: the perfectionist optimizes for one domain at the expense at all others.

Be an imperfectionist. The imperfectionist stands to get more total value than the perfectionist because life is not one lemon but thousands.

Squeeze each lemon inefficiently to be efficient. Be an imperfectionist. Optimizing for the whole often means deliberately not optimizing for the parts.


Thoughts

Deviating

Per my last newsletter, I’m still thinking about the general idea in deviate.

There seem to be two types of opportunities: bounded, and unbounded. Bounded opportunities have a capped maximum reward, and are usually highly competitive, commonly known, and locked behind application forms. There’s a formula for these. Unbounded opportunities, however,  are unpredictable, unknown, hits-based, more interesting, and more fun. There’s no formula for these.

For example, a few months ago I started writing. Because of it, I’ve met many interesting people and made many close friends. (This is significant: I have a high preference for being alone and hadn’t before had more than one person I really enjoyed speaking to at the same time.) But before I started writing, I didn’t know anyone else who wrote. No one could’ve told me “Hey this is a productive activity, you should do this.” Instead, I just started writing, randomly and for fun. Writing was a portal that no one around me knew existed.

I’m looking for more examples of this. What were your portals? What ‘unbounded’ opportunities made a large positive difference in your life? Reply to this email and let me know. (I may ask to use your example in the essay I’m drafting.)

~ Chris