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The Non-Linearity of Life

My last post was about doing difficult things. Since that post, I have had stretches of focused work, late nights, confusion, successes, failures, lessons learned. I've listened to both desire and logic. And often, I think that just a couple months prior I could in no way have expected to be where I am, for better or worse.


Not long after the last post I sat down and painted a picture of how things would go, organizing a list of action that would for the next five years give no doubt about any effort taken - everything would be captured in the confines of the bigger plan. And I woke up the next day, and the day after, and the one after that, and so on, following a regimented schedule of daily actions that would align my efforts with a vision.


It went well, and as it went, I kept thinking that what I do is solely under the domain of my plan; and all the while reality moves in the background, augmenting the realm of possibilities that you are unaware of, being so drenched in your own version of the world. And being blind to it for a long period, what is likely to happen is an event so improbable within your view that it completely rips through that separation from reality that your vision offered.


Life is cruel, in that it gives us an ostensible sense of control over our destiny. In hindsight, we can create a reasonable story for where we are at, but that is to ignore the mishaps and improbabilities that have changed our path. What is the right thing to do then? Should we believe that we are not accountable for what happens, and should rely more on faith than our own effort?


We do not know the person we will be in the future, but we can have a fair estimate of where we are at now through regular reflection and book-keeping. If we can track where our thoughts are at throughout the week, how the world interacts with us, and how we can interact with it, we can infer what our true and current character is, and then make a judgement on how well our intentions align with this character. We equate the supply of our actions with the demands of life, and remove the constraints imposed by our forecasted outcomes. We are more reactive in this paradigm, but we are also more realistic. We become adaptable.


A bookie walks into his stall and listens to the crowd's request, and then converges on what the value of a bet is. There might an internal valuation of the bet, but ultimately it is the market (reality) that decides. And every time a trade is made, the valuation is adjusted based on an assessment of the counterparty: is this a smart actor that could potentially know more than rest of the crowd, and are other sophisticated bettors likely to follow this same trade?


Likewise in life, we assess our efforts, and as events happen, we re-assess our efforts conditioned on the new information derived from that event. This blurb of thoughts boils to comparing a frequentist approach to living versus a bayesian approach. In the frequentist approach, we ascertain that there is a true vision, and through repeated actions try to arrive at this vision. In the bayesian approach, the vision itself is variable, and we can only update our estimate of it through new inputs. The frequentist is active, the bayesian is passive.


Choosing a bayesian approach is not to say that you are passive in every regard. A bookie does not know the value of what he trades, only the market does. But he gets to choose what market he books in based on what resources he has available and what market is most suitable (fast, slow, etc). In the same way, we can choose the seed of outcomes from the possibilities available to us at this point, and we should choose in the way that we believe will be most fruitful given our strengths, resources, and competences. And then we have to trust our self-assessed competence for a while, until we can again step back and judge our performance.


Ultimately, success goes to those who can bring themself to the place befitting of them. Nature is a game of chance, and we can maximize our return by choosing which games to play.

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