All problems have solutions. That's what makes them problems. The solution might involve trade-offs or expenses that you don't want to incur. You might choose not to solve the problem. But there is a solution. Perhaps you haven't found it yet. Perhaps ...

Problems and boundaries

All problems have solutions.

That’s what makes them problems.

The solution might involve trade-offs or expenses that you don’t want to incur. You might choose not to solve the problem. But there is a solution. Perhaps you haven’t found it yet. Perhaps you need to do more research or make some tradeoffs in what you’re hoping for.

If there is no solution, then it’s not a problem.

It’s a regrettable situation. It’s a boundary condition. It’s something you’ll need to live with.

Which might be no fun, but there’s no sense in worrying about it or spending time or money on it, because it’s not a problem.

“I want to go to the wedding, but it’s a thousand miles away.” That’s a problem. You can solve it with a plane ticket and some cancelled plans.

“I want to go to the wedding, but I’m not willing to cancel my meeting.” That’s not a problem. That’s an unavoidable conflict. If you need to violate a law of physics to get out of a situation, it’s not a problem. But you’ve already given up turning it into a problem, so it doesn’t pay to pretend it’s solvable.

Once we can walk away from unsolvable situations that pretend to be problems, we can focus our energy on the real problems in front of us.

HT David Deutsch


How to be honorable

Honorable men (at least that’s what they called themselves) used to settle their disputes with dueling pistols.

Honorable women used to bind their feet and shame others that didn’t.

Honorable humans used to own slaves.

“Honorable” has always been measured against the current culture, not an absolute of what we’re capable of.

Over time, then, as the culture changes, what used to be honorable becomes dishonorable.

Sticking with it because it’s always been that way is a truly lousy reason to persist in a behavior that causes harm.


Don’t steal metrics

A thoughtful friend has a new project, and decided to integrate a podcast into it.

Talking to a producer, he said that his goal was to make it a “top 10 podcast on iTunes.”

Why is that the goal?

That’s a common goal, a popular goal, someone else’s goal.

The compromises necessary to make it that popular (in dumbing down the content, sensationalizing it, hunting down sort-of-famous guests and doing a ton of promo) all fly in the face of what the project is for.

It’s your project.

It’s worth finding your metrics.


Asserting anthropomorphism

We’ve been doing it for a long time.

“The Gods must be crazy.”

The easiest way for a human to deal with a complex system (an AI that plays Scrabble, the traffic, the weather) is to imagine that there’s a little man inside, someone a lot like us, pulling the levers, getting annoyed, becoming frustrated, seeking retribution or offering a prize.

If that works, keep doing it.

But it might be even more helpful to remember that there’s no homunculus, no narrative, no revenge. Merely a complex system, one we can understand a bit better if we test and measure and examine it closely.


Fads in belief

Over time, some people embrace edge beliefs like ear candling, the Stein Harmonizer and hydrogen infused water, among thousands of others. Our search for reassurance and belief is built deep into our culture. And if it’s not hurting anyone and you can afford it, a placebo is a fine tool, and often a bargain, possibly effective as well.

It’s fascinating to note, though, that some people have embraced none of these edge ideas, while other people are regulars, moving from one to the other as each loses steam (you’re unlikely to know someone who currently keeps his razor in a pyramid to keep it sharp but it used to be common).

Why the need to switch? Why not stick with one for decades? And if you switch, what story do you tell yourself about this pattern–are you discovering that the prior ones weren’t nearly as effective as you hoped, but this one will definitely be the one? Or is it more likely that focusing on future prospects is simply more effective and enjoyable than acknowledging the long string that came before?

[The same behaviors can be seen in some stock investors, political pundits and diet gurus as well.]

It’s worth noting that fad beliefs are embraced precisely because they’re fad beliefs–temporary stories that bring solace, not breakthroughs in the long-term engineering of well being.


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