0162 – Identify your wants and utility functions

I wrote this in May 2014, publishing now.

I’m sure I’ve written about this before, but each time I strip away some bullshit (hopefully) and get closer to what my actual utility-functions are. Meaning I want to do what makes me happy more than what I think makes me happy. I want to identify what things will reliably bring me joy. Writing is one of them so I should always be writing, be it for myself or for an audience.

But what else? What really matters, what is meaningful to me? Acknowledging, of course, that life is absurd and there’s no ultimate point to anything. We’re in a massive sandbox, and at the end of the universe everything will be wiped clean. So things like legacy and lasting impact, while nice to have, are manifestations of wishful thinking.

I need to clarify that statement.  I think I think of legacy as a sort of litmus test. Things that have lasting positive influence must have been meaningful in some arbitrary way, so building a quality legacy means that you must have accomplished something decent in your life, you must have had applied yourself in some way that most people don’t…

More simply, some people have legacies and most don’t really. I make the assumption that Steve Jobs led an existence that was in some way more interesting, challenging, exciting than most other people…

Ugh, I really don’t know anymore. I’m definitely overcomplicating things. Let’s go to first principles. There’s only cause and effect. All I need to do is to identify a desired end state, then figure out what I need to do to reach it.

Ok. So list out a bunch of desired end states.

Once upon a time I wanted to be a computer game designer because I liked games. Would I like to be a part of, say, Mass Effect? Yeah I would. I’m not so interested in the technical bits anymore. I’m interested in narrative and story. I’d like to help write the story for a game that captures people’s imagination and inspires them to do more. I suppose I could/should write reviews of my favorite games and stories and explain why I like them and what I think can be better. I don’t need to do this from scratch, I can just popularize what good stuff already exists.

I’d like to help people doing amazing work. Elon Musk is doing amazing work. Simon Sinek. Seth Godin. I don’t need to necessarily work for them, though it would be nice to help accelerate technology that advances the species. I suppose I could support them by just writing well about them, and persuade others to support them.

Clearly I’m going to be a writer for most if not all of my life unless I find something better. I’m a communicator, that is my sellable skillset.

I do like the work I’m doing for the time being. I love that I have the opportunity to develop myself and others. Work is the education I wish I had received in school.

I guess I just need to write good thoughtful commentary about all my opinions and just put them out there. It’s not that complicated. I love writing. I want to write and think better. I have a bunch of things on my mind. I need to go through a sort of birthing stage where I just write and write and write.

I’m worried about writing rubbish. I’m more self-conscious of that now than before. Let’s examine this. Why worried? I guess I have some sort of perfectionist streak. Maybe I’m worried that too much bullshit will clog my blog and make it unnavigable, unreadable. But I know that’s not true. I can always just surface the good stuff. I’m worried about saying the same thing over and over again. But even Seth Godin does that. I’m worried about an audience when the real audience that matters is me.

Maybe that’s it. I keep wanting to impress people even though intellectually I know that’s silly. Or maybe I’m bothered that I’m not good enough, I have nothing particularly meaningful to say. But I know that’s bullshit too- you have to go through the bad to get to the good. I’m just stuck because I allow myself to be. I’m used to being stuck. I haven’t yet taught myself to get unstuck. I haven’t yet learned to captain my own ship, so used I am to just lounging around.

Supposed Mark Twain quote (misattributed)- the trick to getting ahead is getting started, and the trick to getting started is breaking the complex down into small, simple things and starting with the smallest or simplest. I’m really bad at this. I procrastinate a lot because there are a lot of small and simple things I can start on that aren’t what I actually want to do- also there’s no failure to worry about in procrastination. It’s relatively easier to tumblr and reblog things I like than it is to write commentary pieces that I wish existed.

I catch myself wondering what’s the point, what does commentary ever do for the world? Who I am helping, what difference am I making, and I could be doing more through some alternate means? I do not know for sure. I do know that it’s better to think about these things in the downtime you have after having attempted something rather than before you do anything at all.

I also worry about silly things like organization and distribution… things that matter, sure, but they’re not the highesr priority. The highest priority is having a steady stream of output. If I have to spend a hundred blogposts out of 1000 writing this then so-fucking-be-it. That was another thing I was worried of. Does a 1000 vomit project count if 100 vomits are just you psyching yourself up? Well the answer is yes. If you feel bad,  do another 100 after. 10 of those are psyches? 10 more then. And another 10 just as a victory lap. So I’ll do 1121 vomits if I have to. Whatever. The number is technically irrelevant, the ballpark is what matters. Way better than getting stuck at 130 and giving up, which I simply cannot live with.

So this is it. This is clearly the one thing that I love so much that I’ll willingly fail at. I’m sure there are a few others but this is the one in my hands right now so I gotta take what I got.

I guess there’s something else- when I started the vomits I was still kinda undecided about this, but I’ve since come to believe that it’s incredibly important to be brief, and the more I write the better I get at doing it. For the time being I’m just going to keep trucking ahead.

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