Quick note for the adults in the room: Make your goals for the next couple of years about 30% less ambitious

I just had a great conversation about the difficulty of getting constructive 3rd-party feedback when you’re the only adult for a thousand miles in every direction. Imagine you’re the teenage king and you can cut off the heads of the people grading your calculus homework, and you aren’t sure you understand calculus yet, and most of the people you know have strong opinions about math but are terrible at it. It can be hard to stay grounded.

This came up because, along with a number of people going insane recently (not a threat response I’d advise), I’ve been getting a lot of sane people asking me to confirm that what they know is true is true. I.e. “Check my math here, am I being proportionally the right type and amount of asshole for the situation?” In rational terms, this is probably the most important reason to have a lot of wise friends around, which is where the internet is still useful. It’s easy to have IRL friends, and happy is the man with wise IRL friends, but if you’re wise you won’t bank on IRL for wisdom because it’s pretty scarce and people move around too much.

That preface serves to set the stage: this advice is for an audience of a certain maturity level and you know who you are. (The rest of you are invited to identify yourselves with dumbass comments, like, and subscribe.) I’ll give the advice first via examples and then a sort of handwavy explanation.

  • If you’d normally set a goal to grow your wealth by 20% in the next year, scale that back to 10%.
  • If you’d normally set a goal to run your first Ironman in a single training season, scale that back to two years.
  • If you’d normally set a goal to do 10 night courses toward your accounting degree this year, scale that back to 6 courses.
  • If you’d normally set a goal to read 100 books in a year (which depends almost entirely on you), set it for 70 books.
  • If you’d normally set a goal to go from a 315 squat to a 405 squat, do 365 instead.

I’m not saying it’s time to turtle up in your bunker and turn your liquidity into bullion. (Well, I won’t ever say that because if things are ever that bad you should turn it into a potato farm.) But I am saying that people are acting the way they are right now because they sense real scarcity setting in (less actual production in the world than last year, destruction of real material wealth in war), where Covid was fake scarcity papering over wealth transfer (same amount of stuff, distributed more to the 1%, a bit less production but still positive). There’s still money to be made out there, so make hay while the sun shines, and there’s still time to start an HVAC business or write that novel. It’s still plenty safe to go out for a run in places where it was safe to do so last year.

But plan on less bandwidth because it’s going to get eaten up by more and more Idiocracy shit. More than anything you’re going to feel this as an inexplicably transactional attitude toward human relationships and a creeping malaise, because the smarter part of your brain (the unconscious) is telling you to avoid unnecessary commitments and wasted effort. Plan on needing more time to go for walks and stare at the grass to talk yourself back to sanity. Plan on needing more time and sanity for petty frustrations like software, hardware, and people breaking for no reason. If you’re used to things magically falling into place as you pursue your goals in a very “Law of Affirmation” type of way, plan on that happening about 50% less often than you’re used to, which will put you under your goals if you don’t take my advice to adjust them.

Again, I advise you to remain both ambitious and realistic but reel in your expectations a bit. Expect fewer happy accidents and plan for more unhappy accidents at unexpected times. Expand your bandwidth by 50% instead, and focus more on making fewer, better choices, as this is more important now. Again, it’s not a categorical difference, we’re just changing the balance by trading a bit of ambition for a bit of space. For purposes of ambition, I’ll give you the Zoomer advice: in the long run success is relative to your peer group because in evopsych terms we’re wired for reproduction and survival. If 95% of the world starves and you’re selling potato farm automation equipment, the future is going to have your politics because everybody in it is going to have your genetics (Genghis grindset). That’s why we instinctively compare ourselves to a peer reference group.

About Aeoli Pera

Maybe do this later?
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2 Responses to Quick note for the adults in the room: Make your goals for the next couple of years about 30% less ambitious

  1. Zeb Zebley says:

    Ghengis grindset is a good meme.

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