Ray Dalio is one of the smartest people alive because he’s defeated his worst enemy: Ray Dalio.
By this I mean that a person who has defeated themselves has nothing to fear because any confrontation can only become a learning experience. You can’t lose if you can always learn. This could be expressed as some deep sounding statement like: “To become wise, understand you’re stupid” or “He who knows himself and knows his enemy need never fear the outcome of any battle.” It could be, except I think making knowledge your own requires finding your own way to express it which is one of my Principles.
Here’s how I express what Ray Dalio knows:
Once you truly and deep down know that you’re flawed and that you have certain inherent weaknesses AND that it is also your responsibility to work with these limitations, you have created the alloy from which you can forge the true insight needed for intentional success. All success you have without having done this can only be accidental.
Ray has a new book out called Principles that I’m slowly working through because it’s not exactly a quick read, and I want to make sure I’m absorbing it all. I’ll have a longer review of it later because the concept of systematizing good judgement is (no exaggeration) perhaps the single most important task we have to figure out as a species if we’re not going to wipe ourselves out in the coming generations. It’s also something that in my crazy grandiose moments I’m attempting to incorporate into a new system of governance/theory of system control that I’m designing because I live in Idaho across from an abandoned slaughterhouse, so why not try to do that in my idle time?
I’m torn between finding myself feeling that it’s full of Principles I’ve already quietly stated to myself and also feeling that if I had truly understood them the way they’re expressed in the book then I would have written them down already. This also gives me a lot of useful thoughts about my own personal flaws and the things I need to work on. This has inspired me to write down some of my own Principles, which I’ll include at the bottom of this post.
This post is mostly about my own writing, but Principles is the reason why I’m taking writing a lot more seriously. I cannot recommend it highly enough. If you’ve ever felt like you could be doing more, this is a book for you.
For those of you needing more convincing, I’d like to share the following video. A lot of times when people talk about economics I’m convinced they’re making up a lot of what they’re saying, because 1) they can’t drill down to first principles or clarify the limitations of what they claim to know and 2) I’m prejudiced in thinking that if they truly understood economics they would have been snatched up by some hedge fund somewhere instead of getting stuck with the task of explaining economics to me.
Watch this video if you want proof Ray Dalio is a person you should listen to. In thirty minutes you’ll walk away with an understanding of Macroeconomics. Seriously, he basically goes from googoo gaga to E=mc^2 in half an hour.
I learned a lot in writing The Family of Fang and Claw. Mostly, that I am capable of writing a full novel-length book, but also that I have a lot of useful insight from the terrible things I witnessed during my upbringing and that judging from the sales maybe don’t intentionally write a book that’s hard to read?
Also, just putting it out there: Feel free to give a bad review of the book if you hated it.
I wrote a book that was hard to read and kind of ugly. If you hated it, I understand and you could warn someone else off in the future. No hard feelings here on my end at all.
I’ve made more than I spent in the production even when accounting for the cookies and hot chocolate I’ve bought from the coffee shop and I have a feeling it will be one of those things that blips every Halloween. Who knows, maybe I’ll even sell some more audio rights from it in the coming months? In any case, I think I’ll use the proceeds to buy a new writing desk with lots of drawers.
In other, Good News: since I increased the price by $0.01 no more weird statistical cluster bullshit has happened, at least so far as I know. For a while there I was really questioning my empiricism.
Now looping this back to what I wrote above: It’s important to write things down. Writing things down turns them from just idle thoughts into something real and durable. Here’s how I’m writing things down:
THE BORED BOARD
One thing I’ve found that discourages me from writing is feeling that I don’t do enough of it. This leads me to have periods of extreme idleness followed by periods of extreme productivity. A good full writing day of six hours for me is 5,000 words. Granted, I end up revising that pretty heavily but that means by overall output in a given week could basically be a novella if I was really using my time effectively. One of the other things that stops me is I get scared of the feeling that “this is real, I could do this.” Plus, I just plain ol’ get tired from the things I have to do in my everyday life.
With goal setting, I’ve determined that I like writing stories that make people feel good more than writing stories that make people feel poorly. I feel like I’m doing something more Aristotelian when I’m transmitting “Good Things I Know” than “Harsh Truths You Should Look At.” Even if I want to make someone feel poorly for good purpose and to expand their personal knowledge as I did with The Family of Fang and Claw there’s something about making someone feel good that you can’t replace. A lot of this is because I enjoyed the feedback I got from Making Deals with Devils more than I enjoyed the feedback from The Pancake Family.
It’s nice to move someone in a way other than: That was horrifying.
So, I took that and looked through all the notes I have about ideas for stories and I chose to focus in one some that were manageable and also uplifting. Then I got a white board and wrote all the titles down and also wrote down the 5 Step Process to Find Solutions and put it right by my desk, because this is something all people really know deep down and inside and which we all try to avoid when the time comes to implement it into our everyday lives.
My next novel will be a Tide World novel, in one continuous traditional novel story, about a magical dog who has a reversed aging paradigm. The dog ages one year for every seven years a human ages. The story is about his life with three generations of the same family and their adventures together against an enemy called “The Twist.” It will either be called “Atalan” or “The Wild Hunt.” I’ve also decided I’m going to submit things to there traditional agents and wait for a rejection before I just put it up on Amazon.
I’ve also decided to take a joke idea I’ve had called “Emos vs Emus” and turn it into a full length Teleplay. It’s a horror comedy about how important it is to know that people are so much more inside than what they appear to be on the surface, and also how important it is not to pigeon-hole yourself into a certain way of being because you owe it to your own humanity to express yourself fully. And be accountable for your problems and mistakes and forgive other people and do your best to understand not everyone is the same as yourself. But with emo kids and demonic emus having a battle for the fate of the world.
I’m still writing the outline for it but it will include such great things as: “A Para-Ornithologist” and the following line “There is not intimacy without vulnerability [Cocks Shotgun] motherfucker.”
I think I may accidentally tread on some toes with this one so my goal is to write the first draft, set it aside, edit heavily, set it aside again, edit more heavily, get some people who I think might feel they’re being treated unfairly (the beginning might put people off a bit, but by the end I can’t imagine a reasonable person objecting) to give feedback and do final edits and then see if the NoSleep podcast wants it. Contingent upon it not sucking. I may look at it and decide it was in vain and trunk it.
Then to keep myself from feeling like I’m in a void where no one knows where I am for six or seven months, I’m going to write short stories when I get bored. I’ve got about 3k words done on one called “Play Dead” about a quadriplegic person killing a werewolf. I’m planning to write the other 4k needed to finish the first draft tomorrow then I’m sitting on it for a bit while I do the next Age of Fusion story. When that draft is done I’ll go back and edit “Play Dead” and send it off to the ol’ NoSleep podcast and see if they want it.
Anything that’s science fiction or otherwise not suitable there (seriously, that’s a great podcast, you should send stuff there) I’m going to submit to at least three sci-fi magazines and then post here if not accepted. Or on my Patreon.
Patreon people: I remember you. I’m going to get some more stuff up there soon. Also, I’m thinking of bringing down all the prices and getting rid of some of the upper tier joke levels as I just realized that may be sending the wrong message.
Anyhow, with this method I don’t think I’ll ever be bored.
I can’t remember if I heard this somewhere or made it up for myself, but I’ve decided to use a note card outline method on my novels going forward.
The hardest thing I have trouble with writing a novel is forgiving myself for how crap it is when I’m still putting down the first draft. I lose all sense of purpose and direction and just give up.
- So, I realized my goal was to write a novel.
- I identified the aforementioned problem of not being able to finish a novel and
- the root cause of getting frustrated with myself.
- Then I decided what I would do is break the work up into more manageable tasks by writing each scene of the book on one note card so that at no point would I have to just “write the novel” so much as
- I would need to “get through these two note cards today.”
If you can blow that picture up well enough to see what’s written (and can read my hand-writing, and know all the other stuff that’s only in my head) feel free to spoil the book for yourself. It’s also a first draft and I’m leaving it aside for a week so I can come back with fresh eyes. However, it looks pretty strong as I’m spending the right amount of time in each sequence from what I can see at a glance and it also gives me a pretty good estimate of how long the book will be and how long it will take to produce.
This should be an uplifting novel, but it should also probably make you cry for two hours when you get through to the end just because the dog and the people are so damn heroic.
BE CAUTIOUS OF GOOD EYEBROWS
One of the most incredibly intelligent people I’ve ever met in my life breathed through his mouth, always looked deeply confused, and worst of all: his eyebrows never moved when he spoke. His eyebrows just sat there, giving you no information as to whether or not he was thinking. He could also find the roots of pretty much any polynomial equation just by looking at it and had memorized pretty much the entire dictionary.
One of the dumbest people I’ve ever met had deep-set dark eyes and eyebrows that moved around his face like flag semaphore. He once accidentally mixed his medication with some food he wasn’t supposed to eat, twice. Within three days. I’d often tell him something and from his expression feel incredible certainty that he had not only understood it, but that he now understood it better than I did. Then I would find myself telling him the same thing five times and doing his work for him over his shoulder.
People are only good at about 3-7 different categories of tasks. If someone is remarkably talented at presentation (different than communication) they are less and not more likely to be good at what they are presenting themselves for.
IT TAKES A GENIUS TO MAKE IT SIMPLE
Richard Feynman is one of my favorite physicists. He developed something called the “Feynman Method” for teaching himself new subjects. First, he would read everything he could. Then he would attempt to explain it aloud to himself and refer to the books when he got stuck. Then he would explain it to himself using metaphors and not going back to the book except at the end. Then he would explain it to someone else with the requisite background and see if he could make them understand it.
If he could convey the knowledge, he knew he understood it. If he couldn’t, then he didn’t.
Knowledge is an examination of ignorance. Full examination of your ignorance, which is understanding what you didn’t understand, is where knowledge comes from. People who have gone through that process are able to explain it to other people. A person’s ability to explain something (in writing or orally, one is not identical to the other) is proportionate to their true understanding of that thing.
KNOWLEDGE WITHOUT CONVICTION IS COWARDICE
A lot of times I knew things as a kid that I wouldn’t argue about because I figured it wasn’t worth the fight. So what if my mom and dad wanted to mortgage the house so they could go on vacation to Mexico? I couldn’t stop them. Except I also knew these things they were doing to try to save their marriage were also the root cause of why they needed to keep trying to save their marriage. When something would happen like them running out of money for food while we were there, or running out of gas on the way home so that my grandfather had to drive two and a half hours to fill up their tank, I’d tell myself there’s nothing I could have done.
Except I could have got up and yelled about it because I had known better and I could have refused to let them distort the truth. I probably still would have lost but I would have felt better by letting everyone know the truth was out there and it was real and all these things that kept happening didn’t just happen by mistake.
The truth is that I was afraid, as I’ve been afraid many times because I don’t want the responsibility of success or failure. Yet any time I have succeeded it was because I had conviction for what I knew. Conviction should also be proportionate to certainty.
FEELING GOOD ALL THE TIME IS BAD
You’re more mediocre than you think, even when you take into account that you’re more mediocre than you think. Think of a time in history, from long enough ago that you can provide something very close to objectivity. Did any of the people in that time operate with clear consistent morals that you would agree on today? Maybe, yes, but they were probably rare. Did any group of people? Impossible.
Now think of a person in the future as far from you as you are from that time period. What would they think of you? What are the things they would be horrified of that you do every day? What is the big evil you commit that’s so big you don’t even think about it?
Realize you have limited knowledge and have to do the best you can and that it’s highly unlikely that you’re living in a time of perfect moral clarity and perfect moral execution. You have to figure most of this out for yourself from first principles
My grandfather told me this as “If you think about right and wrong, and you keep finding the right thing is what you wanted to do, then you don’t have a moral code. You just have a system for rationalizing what you were going to do anyway.”
Choices should hurt sometimes, and not just in a physical way. They should hurt inside.
GOOD ACTION IS LESS POWERFUL THAN A GOOD CYCLE
Or good habits are more important than a single good productive day. What you do once is limited. What you do repeatedly is much more profound as it changes the trend and increases the number of productive days you’ll have. The same is true for organizations and also holds true with scope. A great employee or leader is great, but not as great as a system which by design forces employee after employee or leader after leader to be good.
Therefore it is important to create good cycles and important to disrupt and destroy negative cycles.