Where Chris Lakin has been

Updates, revisions, and an old favorite.


While I greatly enjoy writing, in the past few months I’ve prioritized other projects. I have a lot I still intend to publish, though! In this email I’ll describe where I’ve been and how the website has changed. I will also share an essay that has been a surprising favorite among readers.

Where I’ve Been

  • August: I had the opportunity to create a summer camp that didn’t previously exist! The camp was called Uncommon Sense; we received a grant to fly 20 students to California and house them for a week while we taught them critical thinking skills. It went surprisingly well! Now that it’s finished, I’m considering running more projects like this. I think about education differently now, too.

  • September: I heavily considered taking a gap year or dropping out, but I decided against it. After talking to my mentors, I now feel like getting a degree is valuable in ways I didn’t realize before. Through this process I met many new interesting people, one of which I cofounded a startup with on the spot—

  • My friend Jerry Ye and I are trying to create small interactive liberal arts classes that fill the gap between books clubs and university courses. We’re doing this because there doesn’t seem to be anything that has more guidance than books clubs, yet more focus and flexibility than university courses. We call it Liberated Arts—if this sounds interesting you, we’re starting our first two classes next week and we have a few open seats. The courses are The Great Speeches of American History taught by Christopher Tamburro and Poetry You Should Know taught by Pete Tamburro. Note that the classes are paid, but 100% of revenue goes to our professors currently.

  • Studying physics at CMU.

  • September: I recently found out that physical therapy exists, and have been using it to fix a movement issue with my neck. I let this problem go unchecked for a year, but once I directed my attention towards it I found that the solution is readily accessible fairly easy. I mention this as a reminder that problems are solvable. What have you learned to be helpless about?

  • Last week: I realized more explicitly than previously that I really do have some autistic tendencies. If you’re reading this and thinking “oh he didn’t already know that about himself?” please tell me:) (My policy on feedback.)

  • Overall, with these activities and a few others, I’m busy! I’m trying to figure out how to do everything I want to do with the limited time I have. How can I increase my capacity without dropping anything?

  • I recently read How to Listen to Kids So They Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk and it is one of my new favorite books. The principles in this book apply to all communication, not just communication with kids. It also has some interesting convergences with another favorite book of Never Split the Difference, another favorite book of mine.

  • More at chrislakin.com/now.

Changes To Chrislakin.com

Over the summer I removed 32 mediocre- or low-quality essays from my website. I have done this because I seek to concentrate the quality of my website into my few best pieces, and nothing more. (A few of the removed essays will be making comebacks once their revisions feel right, though.)

A Surprising Favorite

The following essay has been a surprising favorite among friends and readers. Recently I have referred friends to this essay more than any other.


We rarely need what we aren’t already looking for.

Do you see the crucial difference between the following pairs?

a) Realizing you have a specific problem, and then searching for the solution to that problem.

b) Seeing an advertisement and thinking “I do have that [trivial problem that I never realized I had], I should buy this!”

a) Shopping with a list of specific items to buy, and only buying what is on the list.

b) Shopping without a list, and buying anything that looks useful.

a) “I have problem X. What is the best solution?”

b) “Is it possible that Y could be useful to me?”


(a) consists of examples of thinking forwards: When the problem causes a search for its solution.

(b) on the other hand, consists of examples of thinking backwards: When a solution causes a search for its problem.

But why should a solution cause you to search for its problem? If a problem is important, wouldn’t you already be looking, deliberately, for the best solution? If you really needed it, you likely would’ve already known you needed it.

In my experience, the solutions I implement according to thought process (b) have been invariably less useful than the solutions I implement according to thought process (a).

Problems should generate their solutions, not the other way around. Think forwards.

From chrislakin.com/forwards.

Drawing © Ariana Dyer.

That’s all.