On weed-out classes
⁃ Someone might take an intro to computer science class and get spooked at the difficulty, never taking computer science again. Maybe the class was a weed-out class, intentionally designed so that only the most talented continue with the major. Can’t dumb down the curriculum. If the class was slowed down to cover the same content over the course of two semesters, then twice as many people would continue onwards. But as it is, needing an extra three months to understand the material apparently means that you’re never going to understand, don’t even try. Even though a person’s career could be 60 years long.
⁃ Challenging classes where every day is a struggle and you feel like you’re taking a drink from a fire hose are the ones where you learn the most, and that’s why research keeps coming out showing that memory is compromised when you’re under stress.
On time being finite
⁃ We tell kids to focus on school, yet we praise the ones who focused on outside interests and found success—a college magazine highlighting a student who wrote a novel in their free time. Companies ask workers to do their job duties faithfully each day and then ask during performance evaluations what they did above and beyond their duties. If society wanted us to do interesting/innovative/kind/creative/generous things with our time, maybe it’d have better luck if it didn’t commandeer so much of our time with other things.
On asking what people do for a living
⁃ Sometimes the question feels like this tweet: “People ask what you do for a living so they can calculate the level of respect to give you.” The book What Should I Do With My Life by Po Bronson has a different take on it:
“The Question is how we hold ourselves accountable to the opportunity we’re given. We live in a rich country, so rich that we’re blessed with the ultimate privilege: to be true to our individual nature. Our economy is so vast that we don’t have to grind it out forever at jobs we hate. For the most part, we get to choose. And so a status system has evolved that values being unique and true even more than it values being financially successful.”
⁃ It might be fun to be an orangutan researcher or a skydiver instructor, if for no other reason than to impress people with your whimsical career.
Continue with the current, not against it
⁃ When kids are stressed out and anxious about school so they can get into the best colleges and internships and then go to the best companies and be stressed and anxious trying to get promoted or at least not get fired and dealing with too much work or mind-numbing work, the default state becomes going against the current. You can’t listen to what you want to do because you’ve been muffling the little voice for so long. And it seems like if we want to have a school system that promotes anxiety and depression in most of its students, there would have to be a pretty darn good reason to do so. But the reason is usually to get into a competitive college and then a demanding job, and I’m not sure at what point happiness enters the equation. I also don’t know why doctors have to work 100 hours each week. It doesn’t feel ethical. There are also people who want to volunteer and have to fight for time-slots to help out, and it feels there’s a misallocation of resources going on.
The reason for society and the meaning of life
⁃ My understanding of the premodern era is that life was pretty good–more social than current life, less sustained stress. Our lives would look more similar to those of non-human animals, like birds. And when I think back to the life of our ancestors, while I want to think it was pretty nice, the high childhood morality rate makes me think again. The average mortality rate of children was about 50%. If you had a baby, there was only a 50/50 chance it would live long enough to reach to puberty.
So at its most basic level, maybe society is meant to prevent people from losing their loved ones, whether it be through food, shelter, or medicine. When I look at the rigamarole of modern life, it’s easier to tolerate when I remember the problems it’s solving. You can orient your life around solving the problems most resonant to you, helping people who’ve gone through something you’ve gone through or achieve what you’ve achieved.
Why people don’t say “thank you” to their teachers:
⁃ After Jesus healed ten people with leprosy, nine people didn’t say “thank you.” An extraordinary gift and they didn’t express any gratitude whatsoever. Why?
My own theory is that maybe they didn’t feel worthy of the gift. Maybe they were planning on coming back once they had something to show for it.
⁃ Last I checked-in, I was working out 45 minutes per day and planning to continue doing so indefinitely. As an update, I do six pushups each day as my exercise. I recently increased it from five.