Quotes that Shaped Me

When you're screwing up and nobody says anything to you anymore, that means they've given up on you. - Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture

One of the greatest gifts I have received from friends is honest, harsh, and important feedback. I also really enjoy giving feedback like this to my close friends, and they always appreciate it.

You can always portray a very abstract statement as a vapid truism. I don't want to fall into this trap, so when I see a very abstract statement, I actively seek out its novel implications. - Paul Graham, Tweet

I aspire to always listen closely to what somebody says before I start to form a response. Otherwise, I feel like a language model regurgitating surface level thoughts. I do well at this (except when people evangelize blockchains).

Look, I'm not telling you to stop sleeping with girls. If you're okay with that, then it's okay. It's your life after all, it's something you have to decide. All I'm saying is that you shouldn't use yourself up in some unnatural form. Do you see what I'm getting at? It would be such a waste. The years 19 and 20 are a crucial stage in the maturation of character, and if you allow yourself to become warped when you're that age, it will cause you pain when you're older. - Haruki Murakami, Norwegian Wood

I don’t like the idea of treating people like a means to an end, a game that I solve for sex. I've stayed away from casual sex and dating apps for this reason, I try to treat all people as an ends in themselves. To act freely is to choose the end itself, for its own sake.

I read Norwegian Wood at while I was occupying the space between dropping out of university and starting my first full-time job. It's shaped a lot of how I think about relationships and what being a good person means.

Hyperbolic discounting suggests a workable rationale for choosing according to principle... Insofar as you interpret your current choice as information predicting your own future choices between similar rewards, the incentives bearing on your current choice will to some extent include the bundle of future rewards that this choice predicts. That is, the current choice of a larger, later reward over a smaller sooner reward, if perceived as a test case, will come to predict a whole bundle of larger later rewards in the future, and thus be valued more than it would be by itself. - George Ainslie, Précis of Breakdown of Will

A guiding question since a young age for me has been "how does this activity benefit the character or skills of future me a year from now?"

Précis of Breakdown of Will is a great read. It's a summary of Ainslie's research on willpower and Picoeconomics, the study of the negotiation of scarce resources amongst the self - like the competing desires of staying up late to finish a blog post, and the desire to sleep knowing that it's what's best for you in the long run.

Imagine a society that subjects people to conditions that make them terribly unhappy then gives them the drugs to take away their unhappiness... a means of modifying an individual's internal state in such a way as to enable them to tolerate social conditions that they would otherwise find intolerable. - Ted Kaczynski, Industrial Society and its Future

Kaczynski's had a tangible impact on me. I got rid my phone, the modern-day hypodermic needle, in August of 2021.

To the untrained eye ego-climbing and selfless climbing may appear identical. Both kinds of climbers place one foot in front of the other. Both breathe in and out at the same rate. Both stop when tired. Both go forward when rested. But what a difference! The ego-climber is like an instrument that’s out of adjustment. He puts his foot down an instant too soon or too late. He’s likely to miss a beautiful passage of sunlight through the trees. He goes on when the sloppiness of his step shows he’s tired. He rests at odd times. He looks up the trail trying to see what’s ahead even when he knows what’s ahead because he just looked a second before. He goes too fast or too slow for the conditions and when he talks his talk is forever about somewhere else, something else. He’s here but he’s not here. He rejects the here, he’s unhappy with it, wants to be farther up the trail but when he gets there will be just as unhappy because then it will be “here”. What he’s looking for, what he wants, is all around him, but he doesn't want that because it is all around him. Every step’s an effort, both physically and spiritually, because he imagines his goal to be external and distant. - Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Life before death. Journey before destination.