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Wellness Wednesday for April 19, 2023

The Wednesday Wellness threads are meant to encourage users to ask for and provide advice and motivation to improve their lives. It isn't intended as a 'containment thread' and any content which could go here could instead be posted in its own thread. You could post:

  • Requests for advice and / or encouragement. On basically any topic and for any scale of problem.

  • Updates to let us know how you are doing. This provides valuable feedback on past advice / encouragement and will hopefully make people feel a little more motivated to follow through. If you want to be reminded to post your update, see the post titled 'update reminders', below.

  • Advice. This can be in response to a request for advice or just something that you think could be generally useful for many people here.

  • Encouragement. Probably best directed at specific users, but if you feel like just encouraging people in general I don't think anyone is going to object. I don't think I really need to say this, but just to be clear; encouragement should have a generally positive tone and not shame people (if people feel that shame might be an effective tool for motivating people, please discuss this so we can form a group consensus on how to use it rather than just trying it).

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General updates

tldr for the entire post - started studying 6 hours daily, working out, coworking, had my grandads 90th birthday, stopped hating my parents, saw LOTR, Cyberpunk Edgerunners and John Wick 4. All three are amazing and finally picked up Ramayana and chess for my leisure.

So currently I do math (three different subjects), python (udemy course titled python data science machine learning bootcamp) which has some very rudimentary python in the beginning followed by more advanced stuff at the end. It is on ude,y, has about 25 hours worth of lectures. My aim is to do about 4.5 hours of math and finish this course before the months ends or the next month's first week. After that fast.ai and then my sabbatical would take over my life with me returning to formal logic, nannd 2 tetris and lots and lots of pure C programming.

The whole point is to take these next 6 months and hammer home the real basics so that I can learn to think instead of just matching patterns or lying about things. Anyone can cram questions for interviews but to actually learn under someone good one on one and do so to ensure I not only cover my own gaps but those modern education has is a worthwhile idea.

My Initiation

I also about a month and a half ago got my janeu, the sacred thread which is given to men of very very few clans when they come of age, I was the first to revive the tradition in my house (not just home, house as in the house in terms of clans under the ruling family, feudal lords) and was overwhelmed with the support I recieved from all my e friends. You recieve gifts on that day and I got close to 500 usd (500 is the exact conversion, to inr closer to like 5k in terms of purchaing power in India) in under 24 hours. I only asked for 11 rupees and got close to a hundred donations from friends (mostly) and family in less than 24 hours.

My grandad also turned 90 so we had a large party for him with close to 60 or so guests at our house. I have stopped hating my parents or even wanting to cut them off permanently, making money, having any kind of status. The people who showed up and the kinds of gifts he got did show me that my family indeed is doing well and my disdain for them is more out of my spite for them pointing out my shortcomings rather than anything rational.

I still have issues with my oneitis (I see her in my dreams sometimes. Will leave town when my sabbatical ends. I know what to do, just that time and situations right now are testing me. All this PUA knowldege, nowhere to implement it lol, still stuck on the same chick) and I still have depression and agitation according to my psychiatrists but co working with a bunch of friends my age and older has helped tremendously. I will also officially graduate uni in the next month so another thing I look forward to. My last update was very gloomy and one of my friends even called me upon reading it and spoke to me for hours trying to reassure me, he was right and it has been relatively alright since then. I appreciate all the good things I have, whether it is such gestures by friends or helpful comments on these forums.

Meeting e friends irl

I met one very close e friend recently and he bought me a pair of swords attached to a shield as a gift for my initiation on behalf of his own self and some other friends. We went out, smoked cigarettes, watched some movies and I had a great time with him overall.

Working out

I gained 5 lbs of weight and now weigh 150 lbs, it is not all fat because I can see my face better, same for my abdominal area. I started working out again at home using HIT style bodyweight workout as mentioned in project kratos (by Drew Baye, you can find it online, ideal workout routine tbh), going to total failure on 12 exercises in a circuit is plenty painful so I wish to keep this up for at least 2 if not 3 days a week and slowly gain more quality weight. 145 at 6'0 is very skinny given I have long limbs. I can see all my lifts go up each time I workout and it takes less than half an hour with little to no equipment.

All good for now. Just need to keep this up, build momentum and ensure I rest properly. Proper rest (meditation, actual real leisure, social interactions, sleep etc) are much much more important than people think them to be. I cut my working out to two days for this week due to bad sleep last week due to work and saw great improvements. I will switch to 3 a week now and study more but cutting back at times is important.

Pop Culture

I saw three things that are must watch according to me. Cinema will never be high art the way literature is but it is damn fun. Cyberpunk Edgerunners (Anime on Netflix), John Wick 4 (watch it in theatres) and LOTR extended edition, all were a treat to watch and left a tremendous impression on me.

Highly recommend anyone who has a gf to watch Cyberpunk Edgerunners with her. Edgerunners is a great emotional rollerocaster of an anime whereas John Wick 4 is the second best action movie I have seen, maybe as good as Mad Max Fury Road. Everything about them is brilliant, just go ahead and watch both. Also LOTR extended editon, all three movies are fantastic and Tolkien was a genius. He was able to craft a tale that manages to tell a story that makes you appreciate the atavtistic values your own forefathers defended. The entire thing is beautiful, I had never read the novels and will never watch the garbage amazon is putting out but the original trilogy is a work of pure art. Will review all three things this friday on the fun thread. I cannot imagine comparing harry potter garbage to these things. I was blown away by harry potter as an 8th grader but this is aeons ahead. Truly fantastic.

Leisure

My leisure is Chess and Ramayana as I stated earlier. Ramayana is an amazing epic, Lord Ram, the protagonist whilst an incarnation of Lord Vishnu was never aware of his own divnity and hence his journey through the world is not that of an immortal being but rather that of a mortal man going against the worst evil of his time and winning against it. The tale of a man who did everything he could to live by Dharma and hence is remembered as Dharma Incarnate. He never lived a happy life, his wife chose exile after his victory and his homecoming which we celebrate as Diwali was the only time in his life where his entire family was happy as many suggest that Mata Sita was pregnant with their unborn twins then. I cannot put it down, I love reading it. Ram is everything you can hope a man to be and more in ways that you just cannot help but idolize him and for good reason. Read the epic, I am reading the goldman translation and recommend it highly.

Chess is a fun way to pass time too, I had many exciting games but Ramayana is still my go to.

Until next time!

The Lord of the Rings is an excellent movie trilogy, but in some ways totally misses the point of the books. It gets so many other things right, such as Tolkien's careful balance of serious drama and threat with beauty, humor, and action, and some choices are simply inspired - Peter Jackson's imagining of Sauron atop Barad-dur is pure genius, discarding the letter of the original to capture it's spirit. It's unimaginably bold that such a movie could have been made in the early aughts. At the same time, key characters and plot points are mangled almost beyond recognition. The bizarre thing is that it would not even have been that hard to get it right.

But then, Tolkien's prose is so difficult to follow up.

It is excellent and I appreciate it because the fact that it got made and that too with a high budget alongwith universal acclaim, high box offic numbers and oscar wins is a big fat W. They payoff was so good, cannot recommend watching them enough, amazing fantasy movies, need to read the novels too now. Cannot imagine people bothe comparing GOT or harry potter to something good like this.

Btw, any other thots on my post?

It's good that you are feeling better towards your family. I don't think that people have to like their family but it's important not to carry hatred around.

Pentathlon attempt with 28kg only. This was a reasonably "full" try, other than doing it at 5am, and generally aiming to quit at round numbers rather than squeeze out the last one or two stray reps, this represents more or less my best effort. I wanted to really get a handle on pacing and fatigue this time, and figure out where to swap weights to maximize scores.

Clean: 90 reps out of 120

Clean and Press: 50 out of 60

Jerk: 80 out of 120

Half Snatch: 40 out of 108

Push Press: 80 out of 120

Total score: 340 Reps x 3.5 (per 28kg rep) = 1190

Best effort so far. I let gym boss run out the 5 minute rest timer after the last set, even though there was nothing after, just because it took me five minutes of laying on the carpet gasping like a fish to want to crawl over and turn it off.

Conditioning is clearly holding me back in the Snatch especially. I let myself get out of shape when I was mainly doing a ton of squats over the winter. I'm starting to do more jump rope, loaded carries and air dyne and hill sprints to build my cardio up. Snatch tests used to be a grip failure for me when I first tried it 8 or 9 years ago (wow I'm old) then I went through a time rock climbing and now my grip always holds out, but instead it's like a full system failure when I can't do another snatch, like I'm a video game character that ran out of hit points. I need to work on recovering in between, and being ready to hit 100 snatches, or at least 60. If I start swapping weights to maximize score, I'm definitely leaning towards doing the 16kg for the half snatch. It's the only event where I'd get more points out of full reps with the 16kg, and if I could reduce fatigue in my shoulders going into the push press that would be worth even more points overall.

I'm really enjoying the Pentathlon as a challenge. It's the perfect level of SMART goal for me to improve conditioning this spring. Difficult, I'm still a ways away from maximizing reps with the 28kg, but I'm doing well enough on it that progress feels legit, and offers a very measurable yardstick. Sticking with this through late May or early June at least. 188 reps I can add at 28kg is 668 more points on the table, then I can start throwing in the 36kg for a set of cleans or push presses.

Pentathlon

Maybe a stupid question, but why the very narrow band of weight class options?

Men

  • up to 79 kg
  • 79 kg to 85 kg
  • 85 kg and over

If it was just low resolution, I can understand that. Instead, it's basically little guys, very medium guys, and big guys. Why the narrow medium band, but not more resolution on either side of medium?

Probably just because it's a silly challenge that nobody cares about. I prefer it to the Kettlebell Sport rankings that give a weightclass every ten pounds so that most of the time most people are the only ones competing in their weight class.

Personally, I think fitness or weightlifting sports at the amateur level should be classed by height rather than weight. Take your height, which you can't change, and assume yourself at an ideal athletic BMI (Think Navy Seals or MMA pros), and work from there. You don't get extra credit for being a pencil, put some muscle on.

it should be this way in something like powerlifting. tall guys at disadvantage when in same weight class as shorter guys . rather than top prize being awarded to who lifts the most, it should be awarded for the most work performed, which also incorporates distance.

Since LLMs make (or will very shortly make it, depending on who you ask) 'AI' writing indistinguishable from human writing, I wonder if a new niche market will emerge for Certified Human Writing.

For example, literary prizes - much like chess competitions - have an incentive to avoid allowing AI submissions. So how would they work? The obvious answer is that 'competitors' go on vacation to some kind of hotel or compound where all progress on entries is done under supervision like an exam, with no outside notebooks or pre-written text allowed (so that you couldn't generate a text, copy it down, then merely re-type it; presumably most authors would be unable to memorize a generated novel word-for-word, and there are probably tells for this in the writing process anyway). Art prizes would work much the same way; photography competitions might be possible with a cryptographic marker attached to the original shot by the camera itself.

Novels take time, though. It's hard to imagine most Nobel-competitive writers submitting to spending 8 months in a hotel (presumably at their or their publishers' expense) under constant monitoring, perhaps unable even to access the internet (lest generated text be smuggled to them somehow), solely to compete. Another possibility is of writing as some kind of performance art, where you don't just Twitch stream your writing, you Twitch stream your full creative process from inception to editing, to 'prove' to fans or judges that you actually did it yourself. It's possible whole movements will be established where people choose, perhaps for aesthetic reasons, to consume only books published before the advent of - say - GPT-4, to ensure they only read 'confirmed' human fiction. Maybe famous human writers become like artists, their 'confirmed human writings' witnessed by an audience, or by camera, then sold, on the paper they were written on, to collectors.

Since AI will become better than us (or at least equal to the best of us) at any creative pursuit, entire communities of artists might emerge who deliberately refuse to engage with modern technology at all, perhaps writing or drawing only by hand or with typewriters or early computers, in communities where internet access (and access to modern AI) is either heavily restricted or prohibited altogether, and where creatives judge each other in an effort to impart some kind of shared authenticity (since this art will almost certainly worse than that made by AI, the idea would be a form of quid-pro-quo, where I agree to take your poetry seriously if you read my short stories and give me human feedback).

It's possible whole movements will be established where people choose, perhaps for aesthetic reasons, to consume only books published before the advent of - say - GPT-4, to ensure they only read 'confirmed' human fiction.

This is already more or less my plan, with a cut-off of perhaps 2010. Not entirely due to AI though.

Since LLMs make (or will very shortly make it, depending on who you ask) 'AI' writing indistinguishable from human writing

GPT-4's writing is wholly unimpressive to me. I mean, it's impressive "for an AI" certainly, it's impressive in the sense that this sort of thing was unfathomable to me a few years ago - but in terms of actually writing a long-form piece that makes me think "hey this is really great, I want to read this", there's basically nothing there at all, among all the examples I've seen.

This is in contrast to the best examples of AI art, which definitely do look good and are pretty nice to look at, despite still having some flaws. This basically matches with my intuitions about what current machine learning techniques should be capable of, because "draw a spatially accurate picture of X in the style of Y" requires less creativity than "write an engaging and thought-provoking novel". Representational art is ultimately a technical problem (and I did recognize this fact many years before I ever thought that AI art would be possible, you'll have to take my word for it) - computers have been drawing pictures for decades. It's just that they used to require a massive precise description of vertices and colors in order to do it, but now we can give the description in natural language. Writing (the best writing anyway, the only writing that I bother reading in the first place) brings you immediately much closer to raw ideation - you can't just construct a product according to technical specification, you have to have novel thoughts at the same time, which is a much harder problem.

It's possible that there's a fundamental "creativity barrier" that the current LLM architecture will never be able to break through - creativity being that X factor that's involved in the production of genuinely original art, or novel scientific discoveries, or influential philosophical ideas. It doesn't seem to me that GPT-4 is any closer to breaking through this barrier than GPT-3 was. I acknowledge that I could be wrong though, and if GPT-5 is able to write a novel as good as Nabokov's Pale Fire then I'll update more strongly towards thinking that scaling transformers alone really will produce AGI.

I have a different, not necessarily conflicting perspective as yours.

Namely, that human writing is shit. No really, 99% of literary output is utter dross barely worth proofreading. Look at the amateurish garbage regularly posted on Reddit writing subs like Writing Prompts as an example.

What strikes you as good writing is the cherry-picked output of tens of thousands of would-be writers, and as such, you're not comparing GPT-4 to the average level of human writing, which it handily exceeds.

As of today, it can't write a proper novel since even a 32k token context window isn't sufficient, but I have gotten very decent prose out of it in my tinkering, especially if you prompt it with the names of existing good human authors.

In other words, GPT-4 is a General Intelligence in the sense that a typical human is a General intelligence, it's simply not strongly superhuman at the task.

No really, 99% of literary output is utter dross barely worth proofreading. Look at the amateurish garbage regularly posted on Reddit writing subs like Writing Prompts as an example.

What strikes you as good writing is the cherry-picked output of tens of thousands of would-be writers

I completely agree with you here. Sorry if I didn't make that clear enough. My point was that if all GPT is doing is beating the average or even the above-average writers then that's not really relevant to me, because I wasn't reading that type of writing in the first place. It needs to beat the superior writers to really have an impact.

I imagine that we would have some disagreements over how big the elite actually-worth-reading club is, and who gets to be admitted to it, but I agree with the basic point you're making here.

As of today, it can't write a proper novel since even a 32k token context window isn't sufficient

Actually it can, with recursive prompting. Predictably, the result is not very interesting. But in fairness, there would probably be an immediate improvement if you got rid of all of OpenAI's safety guardrails.

but I have gotten very decent prose out of it in my tinkering

Oh sure, it can write some good sentences. But writing a good sentence is like drawing a good (representational) picture - it's a purely local problem that doesn't have to deal with global conceptual structure. What makes a strong essay or a strong novel is the global structure, and the intricate relationships between local pieces and the overall structure. If there is an inherent limit to the "predict the next token" methodology, it will be found here.

Fair enough! I don't think we have any real disagreement at all then.

I've done my part, by writing a well-reviewed novel before GPT-5 can write better than me. It's going to stay up at least on archives, so I can forever bask in the miniscule amount of glory in provably being a good writer without AI augmentation 🙏

In terms of how the market will react in the future, I doubt draconian steps will take off, it seems more likely that AI will just subsume the entire market, leaving a small niche for people who claim that they're writing solo, often without showing proof, and reacting negatively to demands for proof.

People watch humans compete at chess even though they’re inferior to machines. Sometimes they’ll buy inferior ‘artisan’ goods just because they haven’t been made by machine in a factory. In many cases it’s because of the human drama behind the story creating the perception of a certain kind of authenticity. In writing this is even more true; did the author use their experiences as inspiration, or did an AI use the sum of humanity’s experiences to generate a novel in a certain style?

I'm aware of people doing that, I just happen to believe it'll be a minuscule and ever dwindling share of the market, as is the case with most artisanal products.

People watch humans play chess because the product is the human matching of wits, whereas the majority of books sold seem to me like they're judged as products themselves, with knowledge about the author being a secondary concern.

There are obviously celebrity authors, but we also have blatantly ghostwritten works, pulp fiction, and plenty of genres that don't really give a damn about authenticity.

Right now, barring ghostwriting, it's difficult for any given author to significantly out produce another, they're still humans manually writing after all. But that's changing before our very eyes as I speak.

On further reflection, I think that authorship itself will become largely obsolete, outside of nonfiction and the like, people will very cheap custom order GPT-5+ to write on the fly something they'd like to read.

"Computer, write a salacious but not outright pornographic bodice-ripper set in a the Portuguese colonies in the 17th century starring a down-on-their-luck mestizo girl accidentally winning the heart of a heir in hiding. Oh, and make sure it has a happy ending, and give me 3 options at the end of each chapter for where to take the plot next."

This is almost inevitable, and will be easier in text than more multimedia heavy productions, even if the latter will only lag behind by a few months or years.

Authors, if they still exist, will be mostly brands offering a certain specific flavor of writing, not because they're sought for their own sake.

I think this is true for the vast majority of fiction, but humans already have a strange fetish for 'handmade' authenticity, in part because of scarcity, that I think will probably go into overdrive with the emergence of AI tools. Less a Butlerian Jihad than a thousand smaller ones in their own subcultures. If want a human audience for my writing in 15 years, the only way to get it might be to agree to read someone else's human writing, and so on - which was my point.

Back to your original point about demands for proof of human work, AI image generation is pretty much a solved problem. But in practise, a typical artist isn't assailed with demands to show receipts demonstrating they never resorted to using AI at any stage of the process, including digital art, at least not that I've noticed. I expect that literature will take a similar route.

On the longer term, I'm sure humans will be able to avail of cognitive enhancement to become more competitive. As I've said before, I don't want to just be someone suckling from the teat of a godlike machine intelligence, I want to be said godlike intelligence, writing incredible novels and designing beautiful works of art myself.

And reacting negatively to demands for proof

I'm sure there will be people who would love to deliver proof. I, for one, would love to pay for a provably man-written story, even if it's inferior to an AI-written one. The question is how do you prove it? You could deliver a handwritten manuscript, and I have no way of knowing if you didn't just copy it off GPT. Do we start locking authors in monasteries and not letting them out before they finish a book?

It's possible whole movements will be established where people choose, perhaps for aesthetic reasons, to consume only books published before the advent of - say - GPT-4, to ensure they only read 'confirmed' human fiction.

Can we backdate this to the advent of social media/smartphones?

A man can dream….

This picture was posted on the chess subreddit and I can't stop laughing and thinking about it:

https://imgur.com/a/JATi25D

https://old.reddit.com/r/chess/comments/12r6psl/a_story_in_two_pics/

The right picture is Ding Liren, who is currently playing in the World Championship against Ian Nepomniachtchi, when he had something of a mental breakdown which lost him Game 7. He played fantastic as black until he had a small advantage, but then he froze, he blundered his remaining time because he couldn't bring himself to make a move. He just couldn't. He was paralyzed by his fear to overlook something and losing the game. Which ironically lost him the game. When he finally moved with 0:45 seconds remaining for 8 other moves (Nepo had 12 minutes left) he was visibly lost and depressed and he just got through the motions until he lost the game. Anish Giri commented that Chess is not a physical sport, so you don't normally see when someone collapses, but this was a collapse.

The left picture is Gigachad Magnus Carlsen, soon Ex-World Champion but still nonetheless best player in the world, arguably maybe best player ever, better even than Kasparov and Fischer at the height of their time, who has the time of his life partying with the Botez sisters and GM Aryan Tari, drinking shots and having fun playing Chess while everyone is dancing to cheesy Europop bangers.

When he mouseslipped and only got second place in an online tournament he exlaimed to the laughter of all: "I quit the fucking world championship for this?!"

https://clips.twitch.tv/AlertRespectfulQueleaHassaanChop-7SH5g20q4uKdQXlb?tt_medium=clips&tt_content=recommendation

"He should be ashamed for this. What a nonsense."

vs

"this is a fever dream of a stream tbh"

"Fever dream is the best way to describe it. Magnus is having so much more fun, has plenty of money, and has little left to prove. Seeing him vs Ding and Nepo right now makes it clear to me he made the right choice for himself"

vs

"what a time to be alive"

In your life try to be like Magnus, even if you are like Ding. It looks way more fun and you can wear cool sun glasses.

Chess is a game. It's something to play, to exercise your faculties, to have transient moments of joy and frustration about. I think professional sport is in general a pretty perverse culture, precisely because it kills the playful spirit of games, turns them into a high stakes rat race, essentially creates evil out of thin air. The value of discovering natural genius and pushing it to the limit is not worth this tradeoff.

Particularly seeing as that genius, confined to the realm of the game, doesn't contribute anything tangible to the world. Assuming the fungibility of IQ, Magnus and others are an immense lost opportunity. If we are tolerating this, might as well let them have a good time instead of pointlessly forcing the solemn ethos of self-sacrifice for the greater good where there isn't any.

Particularly seeing as that genius, confined to the realm of the game, doesn't contribute anything tangible to the world. Assuming the fungibility of IQ, Magnus and others are an immense lost opportunity.

How many full time professional chess players are there in the world? If it is more than low five figures, i would be surprised (and large part of them are weird people who would not fit in professional scientific or engineering world, even if chess never existed).

If you want to be angry at waste of high IQ potential, better targets for your rage are things like this.

Seeing this I gained a lot of respect for Magnus (not that I didn't respect him before, but I respect him even more now). Having a talent can happen to anybody. Developing a talent takes a lot of hard work and dedication. But not letting this talent alone take over your life and subsume all of you, being the ultimate master of your life while keeping the talent - this is a sign of greatness.

Step 1: be best human chess player ever born

Step 2: retire and have fun

It’s easy, we should all do it!

In all seriousness have you considered the possibility that Anish was playing up the drama because he’s commentating? It is possible (some would say likely) that Ding was just unable to find a continuation that wouldn’t lose him the game anyways.

In your life try to be like Magnus, even if you are like Ding. It looks way more fun and you can wear cool sun glasses.

Yes, I think it's pretty obvious that it's better to be talented, attractive, rich and a winner than not those things.

You cant be on the left of the picture without having been on the right.

In your life try to be like Magnus

No, he’s a coward. Why isn’t he playing in the world chess championship right now?

Of course, he’ll say that he doesn’t like preparing for big championships. Okay, fine, don’t prep. Have the courtesy to sit there and let someone better prepared beat you. Show some respect to the game.

If you don’t have Magnus’s respect, and you beat him, he will ruin you.

How did chess of all things become about hanging out with chicks?

Why isn’t he playing in the world chess championship right now?

Because he doesn't want to? He has proven to himself what he wanted to prove. He doesn't owe anything to anybody.

How did chess of all things become about hanging out with chicks?

Maybe some chess club somewhere prayed extra extra extra hard?

But wouldn’t people think it even more disrespectful if he blitzed his moves, then left to chat up the Chessys, take a dip in the pool and play his game boy? Some are still going to lose. He may want to spare them Salieri’s humiliation.

Eh Magnus is a poor sport but at least he’s enjoying himself. We modernized folk need to learn to take ourselves less seriously.

Just began chess. It is a cool hobby. I am at that noob phase so no theory for now but chess is one sport I like because it is mostly just analysis even when you watch it, less parasocial elements.

Anyone here on lichess?

me

how do i add you?

Can you please dm me your username on that platform?

Streams by or with Magnus are always great. Playing memetic moves to humiliate "noobs" (GMs that would wipe the floor with any of us), actually talking with the chat and his friends while playing, beating Alexandra Botez again in another one of her "five minutes for me, fifteen seconds for you" challenges, then suddenly getting serious when he's matched against a top player, he's making "watching chess if you suck at chess" entertaining in the same way watching basketball if you suck at basketball is.

How many of y’all find purpose in your career? I try to but ultimately I don’t think my work is that important. I’m not sure what else I could reasonably do that is important, is the problem.

I have people I care about and get meaning from other sources, but work is a perennial stress in my life since I spend so much time on it. Periods in my life where I haven’t had to work have been excellent and I have zero issues finding happiness and meaning, but obviously we have to make a living.

How does everyone else cope with a lack of meaningful employment?

I know this is late, but I just...don't care. I work two jobs, as a delivery driver/owner's crony for a local doordash clone and as a barback/bouncer at my favorite bar. I work, make the boss happy, get paid, end of story.

At my best I enjoy my jobs. When I was a kid I wanted to be a wheelman, and delivering food is kind of the legal version of that. I get paid to be outside all day and drive a (not very nice, mind you) sports car in circles. At the bar, I get paid to hang out and drink at the place I was probably going to be anyway. I card people, make some drinks, haul ice, and clean up. It isn't really hard.

At my worst, at leas my jobs are easy and my bills are paid. I feel resentful for not having enough free time but I probably would've wasted it anyway.

I don't know if I derive meaning or purpose from my job, but I enjoy it and it's basically the only thing that gives me 'satisfaction' rather than 'pleasure'. My work is neither important, high-status, or well-paid.

I get no meaning whatsoever from my job, but it’s not very difficult and it’s the first good salary I’ve ever had. I’ve spent a long time looking for more meaningful work at lower pay, but the longer I go without success on this job search the less realistic taking a paycut and starting from the bottom again feels. So I guess I’m in the process of giving up on things I’d care about to take a more comfortable but unfulfilling life. I don’t really enjoy any part of that identity and life-fulfillment wise but I try to remind myself that only a few years ago I would have killed for the security I have now.

Yeah it’s wild how green the grass can get. It’s very strange how our minds work, almost like we’re optimized to never be satisfied whatever we achieve. I suppose in a way we are, since evolution is not kind to idleness.

I find it meaningful to contribute, whether that is to my family, my work group, my company or society. Preferably what I do accomplishes all these things.

When I felt like I didn't contribute much to either my company, work group or society at my last job (I was still well paid), I just switched jobs.

What line of work are you in?

Sales. I think part of the issue is even though I do contribute, sales just feels slimy to me. It pays well though.

So, you're in a famously soulsucking field that feels "slimy" to you.. To me it sounds like something would be wrong if this gave you meaning.

Ya know, fair point.

I'm in a weird spot. Out of college, I applied for a lab analysis job, but was reassigned to an environmental compliance job before my first day. Now 11 years later I'm laid off with all my career experience in environmental regulations, despite being right-wing and generally opposed to environmentalism. It's weird trying to navigate that job market without being a true believer.

I think my best career trajectory at this point is to set myself up to step into a policy position after a future conservative purge of the EPA. Wish me luck!

Think you could apply your expertise plus political thinking for a think tank with a focus on regulatory policy like CATO?

No, my expertise is in the hands-on work of actual emissions sampling, not high-level environmental policy.

Ah got it

It's weird trying to navigate that job market without being a true believer.

There's no market for "how can I do X without getting dinged by regulators" type consultants?

Yes, but the other issue I'm running into is that no one wants to train. They're only looking for people who have done that exact same job for 5 years already. And my job was so niche, the exact same position just doesn't exist anywhere else.

I worked for the same company from before graduation till the end of 2021, and there were periods between large projects when I was feeling down. But now I work for an even larger company, and I have been stressed out by that feeling of barely treading water.

I switched jobs to grow as a manager, but the experience has been quite different. Back at the old place, I had lots of slack as defined by DeMarco, so I could get down to the bottom of an issue that wasn't my direct responsibility, meet with people in charge of that thing and get them to change it. Here my schedule looks like my boss' boss' schedule back at the old place: double-booked meetings from nine to six. Even when I claw out a couple of hours of peace, I'm so frazzled I can't really concentrate on anything beyond cleaning my mailbox. Even if I could, the place is so huge, I feel like I'm a cog in the machine: the gears turn the way they do, and I'll just get my teeth stripped if I resist. And yet my boss manages to thrive in this environment: she finds time to think, to come up with ideas, to convince others, all this while having a worse schedule.

I do get small glimmers of satisfaction when I can help patients, but truth be told at my current level, I don't really make much in the way of clinical decisions without a senior consultant calling the shots.

I joined medicine because it was the Default™ path, not because I had any burning passion for it, so I suppose I'll just keep grinding wages until AI leaves me unemployed. The odds really aren't good that I'll make it to consultant level as a psychiatrist and have a field of medicine to practise in.

Is doctor the default path for a lot of folks in India, or was it more of a family thing?

I'm sure a lot of people wish it was the default path, but every year there's like 2 million people competing for about 20k slots for med school!

In my case it, it very much was the latter, my whole family was made up of doctors, running back to before it was a recognized medical qualification. Nothing else spoke to me, and it offers significantly easier opportunities to get out of the country, so I ended up falling into it.

If I didn't have that kind of backing, I wager I'd probably have opted for becoming a programmer instead, I do like the subject, but didn't end up taking programming classes past a certain point because I had to choose between that and biology in the last two years of high school.

I don't get meaning from my job. I don't hate it (and this is important), and I think - on balance - I do something useful, in its own small way, for 'the world' (this is important for some people), but it isn't my purpose. To me, meaning has been about relationships with friends and family.

I wish I got more meaning from my relationships to be honest. My partner and my mother are the main two people I care deeply about, but even there I don’t find them to be a significant and reliable source of meaning.

I sometimes wonder if I grew up seeing family more frequently if I would care about relationships more, I had a relatively isolated youth which I’d imagine plays into it.

My work pays the bills for my family.

I somehow managed to get out of a major months-long slump. Still not sure how. Salient aspects below, but most of them may be cause or effect and I don't know which.

  • Winter ended. It's warmer and less dark. Switching time zones is annoying, but I do appreciate summer time. I probably do get a major case of the SADs (Seasonal Affective Disorder) in winter, not that I'd ever go to anyone who might diagnose me. But psychospeak aside, I hate winter. I hate the cold and the dark and the denuded trees and the grey skies and the soggy ground and the feeble sun and the shortness of the days. I can get comfy at home, but it still feels like some kind of half-hearted afterlife with the best parts of living gone and not coming back for many months. It's still too cold to go swimming or cycling, but I'm planning to go on as long a hike as my busted knees will take to take in the springtime sights as soon as there's a sunny weekend.

  • Had some modest but tangible successes at work. It's been a slog before, and I'm still not doing anything praiseworthy, but right now I'm managing without needing to rope in others to help me out. Maybe I just lucked out and picked some easy tasks for once, but it's nice either way.

  • Managed to fix up my own codebase. I was immured by bugs of my own making from having been too sloppy, overambitious or just plain distracted in the past. Couldn't do anything without it falling apart thanks to the shamefully low level of code quality. Just about everything failed one way or another. I considered scrapping some features, quarantining others until I might fix them, and simplifying the rest until I might manage. I considered just trashing it all and starting over. I considered trashing it all and never starting over. Instead I sat myself down and did the only right thing - wrote tests. Wrote a lot of tests. There are still large swathes of code that are unusable right now, and it does take me serious effort, but it bears fruit. Bugs are getting fixed. Functionality is restored. And I even manage to add some new things and see them work out.

  • Marriage is much more harmonious. I get along better with the wife and we even managed to talk about some difficult topics without it devolving into pointless arguments. Wife has more patience for the child. Child is much more agreeable than she was a few months ago. We went on a trip and had a good time. Nice.

  • Successfully extricated myself from work-from-home for once and spent a day in the office. It was productive and I got a lot of workplace socializing done. The 4-hour commute sucks, but once in a while it's absolutely worth it. I try to make it once in a week, but so far I've been held up. I hope to get there again soon, maybe spend a night, get in a few hours of exercise and even meet some old friends.

  • Finished playing Cyberpunk 2077. See https://www.themotte.org/post/449/friday-fun-thread-for-april-14/88260?context=8#context . Mostly when I play games it's just to unwind, or to challenge myself, and I have a hard time justifying the waste of time. This one, for once, actually had me along for the ride purely for the story. I normally scoff at storytelling in video games - stories in games universally suck, why not just read a book instead? - but in this one case I'm convinced that it was actually well-served by its format. I'm still thinking about it days later. Still listening to related music (https://youtube.com/watch?v=p4cqqUUfy3A). Maybe I'm just impressionable, but somehow it's been a good impression and I feel that playing this game has somehow done me good.

None of my fundamental life problems are fixed, but somehow in spite of them it's going ever-so-slightly uphill right now. If it really is seasonal, then I hope very much that I manage to get as much as possible out of this season, and to prepare as well as possible for what comes after.

I too have SAD, or Summer Affective Disorder. It's fucking 42°C or 107°F out here, opening the window is like peeking into a blast furnace!

I'm going to stay in a small room and abuse my air conditioner as long as I can haha

Winter ended. It's warmer and less dark.

I wouldn't say I was in a slump, but my mood has improved significantly since quitting my job and moving to a hotter country. I don't mind the cold, but I've had my fill of dark cloudy days.

Part of that is quitting a repetitive factory job, I had no issue with the repetitiveness for nearly a year, had time to think, then the job stopped posing a challenge and I became irritably bored on every 12 hour shift.

Glad to hear it! Even though we’re long past the seasons directly affecting our lives, I also seem to have deeply seasonal moods.

-- If you really want to go to a different/better school, transferring is a lot easier than a lot of people think it is, if you do well in school. At elite schools, there's always a couple of transfers in every graduating class. Work hard in your classes at your midwest state school, get a couple signal accomplishments, fair chance you can transfer to a better school. Especially if you're not on a scholarship.

-- That said, tons of people do tons of cool things coming out of smaller schools. Be a big fish in a small pond. At a smaller school, look for opportunities to take over student organizations, get leadership roles, get in tight with your professors. Go to office hours, found new clubs if the ones that exist aren't to your taste it just requires a touch of moxie, enter competitions and get on competition teams. Hell, join a club sports team to round yourself out. You can be a superstar going into industry or a grad school. Kids are sorted into elite and non-elite schools based on how they're doing at 17-18; that means something but not a ton about how they'll be doing at 24-26.

-- If you feel like you need to Ivy/Adjacent bump to get into the tiers you need, you can always get a grad degree later.

-- Most university classes, you learn techniques that stick with you, but most of the rest you take a class and you might hold onto one-to-three lessons or ideas in the long term. Don't stress if you're not getting more out of it.

Good luck.