What is most important to me.
- General principles, and making decisions
- Debates and discussing with people
- Goals and obsessions
- Goals accomplished
- Goals pending
- Goals failed
The most important thing for me should be my own health, happiness and general well-being.
[Perhaps being “interesting” is a better goal than being happy.]
People around me, people who are important to me, should be my second concern.
2. General principles, and making decisions
These balances are difficult in life:
- Weighing my own selfish interests against abstract moral principles.
Doing the right thing also when no-one’s looking.
Complying with rules even when the global consequences of doing otherwise are negligible or debatable.
Example: dodging taxes.
- Perhaps put in a different way: pursuing my own self-interest vs. being altruistic (ie, sacrificing things for the sake of others).
- Balancing the importance of having money vs. the importance of having time.
- Learning to what extent family is important (keeping good bonds with relatives, being involved with extended family and in-laws, working on a long-lasting
romantic partnership, having children, spending most of your time and resources on your children, etc).
- Learning the righ balance between pleasure and education or investments in the future.
- What’s the right level of risk in life (for all kinds of decisions and changes).
- The balance between abstract intellectual principles on the one hand (what one should say and do, in theory), and social norms and pragmatism on the other.
- The balance between justly boasting about my merits and staying always humble.
- I don’t want to be vein and boring when I’m an old man.
As men age, they grow more boastful.
You can see that trait clearly in some old people; with their tendency to blow their own little trumpets at every opportunity.
I shall be vigilant and stay humble.
- Good old stoicism is an asset.
The merit of deeds should be judged considering solely the information available to that person and at the time decisions were made, or actions were taken — never considering their consequences, to the extent that they were impossible to predict.
Positive example: someone all of a sudden spends all their life savings on lottery tickets, and they win the biggest prize in history. Their call to spend all their money in lottery was still dumb and absolutely wrong (as it always is). Regardless of that fantastic but hugely unlikely outcome.
Negative example: [TO-DO].
“Decisions based on emotions aren’t decisions at all.” (House of Cards, S01E12). One should not make non-trivial decisions in the heat of the moment.
The idea of having, or achieving, “one’s dream” (singular), or “the dream of one’s life” seems weak, and maybe even noxious. By definition, pursuing such “dream” should be the ultimate goal in life, and its achievement has to bring immediate happiness at an unprecedented level. It seems imposible to know that beforehand. Also, circumstances, desires and priorities in life change wildly. But such an important, long-term “dream” should not be subject to those petty changes. Also, by achieving that goal (if you ever do that), you automatically downgrade your life, your ambitions and expectations, ie nothing can ever be as huge, as important, or as life-changing as achieving your dream in life, right?
Always remember that you tend to idealise the past.
“Relentlessly prune bullshit, don’t wait to do things that matter, and savor the time you have. That’s what you do when life is short.”
— Paul Graham.
“Don’t ignore your dreams; don’t work too much; say what you think; cultivate friendships; be happy.”
— Paul Graham.
👤 Jordan Peterson’s answer to the question “what are the most valuable things everyone should know” on
💡 Pride and 💡 shame apply only to aspects of life over which one has considerable control.
💭 Example: it does not make sense to “feel proud (nor ashamed) to be an American / a woman / gay / white / tall…”
At most, one is only partially responsible of being “a Dutch” (citizenships can be lost and gained, to some extent, through our actions), or
“physically fit” (you cannot control genetics, but your lifestyle influences your phenotype).
💡 Nationality, in particular, is, in the vast majority of cases, an accident, completely involuntary.
(Exceptions are those who migrate purposefully, break off with their country of origin, etc.)
Modulo those few people, no-one can truly feel proud, nor ashamed, of their nationality or their mother tongue.
“Those who have accomplished nothing as individuals feel compelled to be proud of their race.”
— 👤 Jordan Peterson
- Explicitly asserting 💡 non–romantic love (to relatives and close friends) seems to be necessary and have a huge positive impact on long-term happiness. It isn’t always natural nor easy, though.
- 💡 Love isn’t an absolute, and it doesn’t manifest itself in a perfect form. There is no “perfect match”, nor a “soul mate” ultimately waiting for
- In most day–to–day situations, 💡 lying is bad and shall be avoided.
There are a number of circumstances, though, when lying is perfectly admisible — and even advisable.
Always telling the 💡 truth is overrated.
Few valid exceptions to this rule may be lying (or simply hiding part of the truth) to: children, mentally incapable adults, terminally ill patients.
There are situations in which a lack of information is good for you.
But those are the exception.
- One shall take no 💡 offence from sources one does not value or respect.
If someone I despise calls me a name, or tries to offend me, I can safely ignore them (as long as their public defamation or verbal violence doesn’t actually
affect my image or reputation).
:point_right:✱ honour vs. dignity
- One can’t please everybody. There isn’t one way of being, behaving or talking that everybody always likes and approves. Even the most likeable, charming, thoughtful person can be annoying to some people, sometimes. Therefore, realising that somebody just doesn’t like you, for no particular reasons, might well be irrelevant news — it doesn’t always need to trigger self-evaluation nor reflection, let alone guilt.
- When I see in other people habits or traits of personality that I despise, sometimes it is because deep down I know I have that very same defect.
I’ll do well if I stop and reflect honestly when I detect those unpleasant behaviours in others; when I can actually recognise myself on those
“defects”, it is a humbling and precious pragmatical lesson (to either be more tolerant with others and/or work on correcting that bad habit).
4. Debates and discussing with people
- All 💡 debates should be an open–minded exchange of ideas, and a collaborative quest to put them to test in order to identify the best ones.
That’s the goal.
Everything else is a colourful wrapping.
- Too often, the environment isn’t appropriate for a debate: loud noise, big egos, bad manners, haste and the lack of a minimum conceptual base to start with
Under such conditions, trying to debate is fruitless at best, and often frustrating.
- Always apply the principle of charity.
- It makes no sense to talk about the “winner” of a debate.
It is absurd when people say things like “I know what is true; and no matter what you say, I won’t change my mind!” or “I don’t care what
you say or what your arguments are; you’re never going to convince me!”.
That approach to discussion alone disqualifies anyone in a rational discussion; it is much worse than using an ad hominem argument, or wielding faulty
Never say that (and never think that).
- Paul Graham: “How to Disagree”
Learning and discovering is one of the greatest pleasures in life.
I love what 👤 Steven Pinker says here about the role of universities and what an “educated” person is.
6. Goals and obsessions
I believe more in 💡 persistence and in 💡 practice than in 💡 talent.
A healthy dose of 💡 obsession seems necessary to achieve great things.
At least, so far I don’t seem to be able to accomplish almost nothing that is difficult and important (according to my own definition of “important”) without becoming at least a bit obsessed about it for some time.
An exception might be: getting my first MSc (in CS and software engineering, between the ages of 18 and 24), which was both difficult and important.
But somehow I don’t think that counts: I wanted it, I mostly liked it, I didn’t even have a plan B at the time, it was partly inertia (being curious, introverted, not too dumb), and it was mostly unexceptional in the context of my relatives and friends.
6.1. Goals accomplished
At times I have set specific goals for myself:
“Run 10–km races…☑
Get 2nd master’s degree in foreign country…☑
Run ½ marathons…☑
Get certified in basic Japanese…☑
Run a marathon…☑
— Me, in Apr 2013
What I have never done, so far, is defining plans, milestones or deadlines for those goals.
Perhaps that’s where I should improve my method…
At the time of writing (six years later, on Jan 2019) I would add, as new “goals accomplished”:
- Own and enjoy a decent motorbike (it was a Honda CBF600)… ☑
- Own and enjoy an even better motorbike (it is a BMW F800GT)… ☑
- Run (and finish) another marathon (abroad: NYC Marathon 2017)… ☑
- Live and work in Japan, in Tokyo if possible (I lived in Tokyo for one year and nine months)… ☑
6.2. Goals pending
…and, as “new goals”, or “old goals still pending”, things like:
- Have a child (have children, if possible)
- Live and work abroad again, this time with my family
- Travel for at least a few months around the world (not necessarily around it, but you get the idea)
- Retire “early”
- Own and enjoy the motorbike that I prefer
- Write a novel, publish it if possible (NaNoWriMo?)
- Write a non-fiction book, publish it if possible
- Get to speak and write German well
- Get to speak and write Japanese well
- Be stronger (significantly, both in strengh and in aspect)
- Own a house (a nice house, if possible)
- Develop (or lead) an open-source project that becomes well known or reaches great impact
- Make my living off a software product/service/company of my own
- Be “rich”
6.3. Goals failed
(Hint: I’m 38 at the time of writing)
- Be a young parent (too old already)
- Have many (read: “three or more”) children (seems almost impossible for biological, financial and personal reasons)
- Be really fluent in a language other than Spanish (too late… unless I got to live and work in Italy or in Catalonia for the next twenty or thirty years of my life, perhaps)
- Be quite good at some sport (I don’t mean “professional”, but even as an amateur it’s too late)
- Be a good musician (ditto)
- Be a good illustrator, designer or painter (probably too late, although I’m not completely sure)
- Benefit from the compounding effects of early systematic investment (I bought my first bond at around 27, and my first stocks at 34)