Authentic Signals

  • To say that people do things for signalling value is not contrary with saying that people do things because of authentic desire
  • People draw a distinction between signalling as conscious intent and signalling as a secondary consequence of authentic desires
  • Society disapproves of conscious signalling
  • However, the consequences of a behavior are the same, regardless of whether it was done with conscious intent or not

The Best and the Brightest

  • Allegorical story describing the process of getting an education and a job as a series of levels in a game
  • “Maze of Tests” - grade school
    • Advance by giving the right answers
    • Realize that you can advance more quickly by guessing the teacher’s password
    • However, being able to advance more quickly in this fashion doesn’t make you smarter
  • “Swamp of College Admissions”
    • Need to hire a test-prep guide to get you through one of the three-letter exams
    • Need to come up with a good story about how you have potential to benefit society
    • However, even though you’ve come up with a good story, it doesn’t mean you’re actually benefiting society
  • Once in college you need the “magic smoke of the right names” in order to get a good job
    • Interning at a well-known company gets you an advantage even if you didn’t really do any challenging work
    • Need to put the right names on your resume in order to get a good offer
  • Once in the workplace, you need the “magic rope of right relationships” to advance
    • Find your higher-up’s deepest fears and insecurities
    • Play politics to advance
    • However, the fact that you’re advancing doesn’t mean you’re more deserving
  • The “Inside game”
    • Notice that “insiders” have a fast track to the top of the social hierarchy
    • Take the insiders’ route to the top, bypassing all the real work done by others to advance
  • Once you get to the top, you realize that there are no “true” answers
  • The real game is setting the rules of the game for everyone else

Play in Hard Mode

  • “Hard mode” means accomplishing goals in a manner that ensures personal growth
  • Deliberately eschew trying to make yourself look better than you are
  • “Hard mode” is about being true to your own values, even if they run contrary to what society expects

Play In Easy Mode

  • “Easy mode” is analyzing systems and finding the most efficient path to your goal
  • Easy mode strategies can fall victim to Goodhart’s Law, where you optimize the narrow thing that society expects of you while losing site of your broader goals and values
  • Easy mode can get you to certain goals faster, but doesn’t build character
  • Easy mode is “selling out”

Half-Assing It With Everything You’ve Got

  • Guilt/shame motivation works great right up until it stops working
  • If you want to be effective, remember your goals
  • Accomplish your goals with a minimum of wasted effort - doing something too well can be as wasteful as not doing it well enough, since it takes away time from you accomplishing the next thing
  • You don’t have enough energy or enough time to do everything perfectly - focus your energy on the things that you really care about and spend a minimum of effort on the other stuff
  • Remember what your goals are; deploy your full effort towards reaching them with a minimum of wasted motion