My mistakes on the path to impact

I love this post. Thanks so much for sharing.

Brief book review 2020

Thanks so much for writing this! Added a couple to my "to read" list.

Desperation Hamster Wheels

Thanks for the links!

I think my professional and social spaces at this time both made this feeling worse (because others felt this too and there was feeding on each other's angst cycle) and enabled me to get out of it/provided a healthy path forward (because others had navigated this before and gave me thoughtful and insightful advice, and also supported me as I made steps in this direction). I also think it's a broader dynamic than my personal professional and social spaces -- I was mostly within EA at this time, but I've seen this dynamic play out in a lot of other "do-gooder" friends from college who were never involved at all with EA.

Desperation Hamster Wheels

Thanks! This is an interesting point, and I'll mull on it.

Desperation Hamster Wheels

Thanks for the link! I'm adding it to my to listen to list :)

A few rambly reactions/thoughts in response to your message in case they are helpful:

  • I wonder if doing some experiments here would be useful. e.g. do you seem to have more impact if you assess your impact/usefulness daily, weekly, monthly, yearly? (or whatever intervals feel worth a test to you) What happens if you experiment with just leaning into your interests (rather than usefulness)? Seems worth trying some things out and then taking time to reflect on how they went. I've benefited a lot from experimentation of this form.
  • FWIW I find assessing my impact more than a couple of times a year to be quite stressful and not very helpful (often a distraction from actually doing things). Interestingly and perhaps counterintuitively, I find prioritizing based on expected value to be useful in my role daily. Somehow the frame of prioritization enables me to make those trade-offs without kicking up this sort of desperation hamster wheel/stress cycle. I wonder if trying on different frames could be useful for you too? Prioritization depersonalizes it a bit for me in a useful way.
Desperation Hamster Wheels

[Apologies for the rambly nature of this response]

Thanks Ozzie, I agree with your point here. I don't think this is essential for everyone and I agree it can lead to or be indicative of some weird biased mental move.

A couple of clarifications/mini-rambles on what I mean (but I think what I mean is a much less interesting than a useful discussion about what is helpful to people and what the implications and pros and cons of different views are):

  • I agree that the value I can give to others is a lot more in expectation than the value of my life on its own.
  • My career and donation decisions are mostly based on utilitarian reasoning (or at least that's what I intend). Not all of my life is though (there's a future post on this topic brewing in my mind -- something about a portfolio approach to life).
  • [super confused on this] I think sometimes acting as if I believe more of a virtue ethics-y/deontological thing in some day to day decisions, particularly around personal life/happiness might be better as measured/defined by utilitarianism lights? Anyways, something in the vague direction of this argument feels true for me with optimizing for my own happiness. I'm confused about this though, and depending on the day might respond very differently if asked about it.
  • I think the main underlying point I was trying to make is more along the lines of the latter thing Ozzie said (with one slight edit, in bold) "actually, optimizing for my own happiness more than I had been is the optimal way of achieving a more universally good outcome".
  • I probably should have worded that point differently? I'm not positive though -- I wrote the initial phrase in question for the Nicole of a few years ago who had literally forgotten that she, too, counts and has value. I can't quite put my finger on it, but it felt like a very important realization to me.  I had actually forgotten and that forgetting had lots of subtle impacts on my emotional well-being and intellectual resiliency that were quite bad.
Avoiding Munich's Mistakes: Advice for CEA and Local Groups

+1. I also think that the chilling effect can extend to people's thoughts, i.e., limiting what people even let themselves think let alone write.

Brief update on EA Grants

EDIT: The EA Meta Fund and Long-Term Future Fund deadline is now 12 June, as announced elsewhere.

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