How I Motivate Myself

1) Thinking about myself as having an identical twin except she’s really productive and my master. The imaginary twin sees me watching True Blood and goes, “What are you doing? This is why you’re inferior to me and I’m in charge of you. Go finish your work! Maybe afterwards you can watch 30 Rock for 30 minutes. I’ve been doing air squats and kettle bell swings while you’ve been sitting there.”

2) Thinking about the person I want to be and working towards becoming more like that person. For example, I’d like being wise to be part of my identity. But I do stupid things all the time. Quandary! Can I read books or talk to smarter people to try to close the gap between my goal identity and my actual identity? How do I figure out a plan that makes me more like the wise person I want to be?

3) Thinking about myself as one instance out of many (potentially infinite) instances of me existing in parallel universes and wanting to compete with the other Nancy’s, in particular wanting to outperform Superposition Nancy. How embarrassing would it be to meet these other Nancy’s one day in a Jet Li-type “The One” situation and be way weaker and thus immediately annihilated?

4) Thinking about how glad I am not to have been born in the 9th century or in Sudan, or even 50 years ago. It’s a miracle I exist at all since my Chinese parents never touched (ever). Basically despite being born to a poor graduate student and a teacher, I feel born into privilege: everything my ancestors did for millennia led to… creating me! I’m basically the result of centuries of breeding. “With great power comes great responsibility,” etc.

Reading back over what I just wrote, I’ve never heard anyone else talk about thinking in this way, so maybe I’m crazy. Whatever, this all reminds me of the guy in Fight Club, except we appear to have (hopefully) skipped the psychotic break, etc.

Quora: How do I get my life back on track?

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Staying with Anna at Mobi Headquarters

I’m trying to write some shorter posts because Anna said all of my posts are pages and pages long. Here’s a short post:

When Anna invited us to stay with her in Lincoln 30 minutes from MIT, Dilip was like, “I don’t know…” I told Anna I’d try to convince him.

Winding up the green, wooded driveway, we both said, “Let’s stay a few extra days.” I said this without even seeing the house- the sparkling smell of the air was enough. Maybe I was just overjoyed to be back on US soil.

A VC gave Anna and Nii the house for their headquarters. Although we didn’t use the underground movie theater or roof deck hot tub, we made good use of the gigantic pool. I loved all the light coming into the house- many walls were windows and the sunroof in each room made the air bright. Also who knew there was such a thing as doors in the back of your closet opening into the laundry room so you could put clothes straight into your drawers from the laundry machine? And there was a tiny treehouse and groomed grassy fields flanked by trees to tumble around on.

In addition to Mobi, Anna runs the Vehicle Design Summit and is doing a fashion startup Lorien. Anna grows corn and other plants in her greenhouse area and prepares yummy foods for us that I devour while imagining murderers creeping into the huge house through one of its million entrances to take showers or something. Every time I pass the sauna I speed walk in case there’s a sweaty murderer lurking inside. This is why I need a pack of ferocious dogs- to alert me of squirrels and murderers.

European PIGS Tour, Evaporative Cooling

A few years ago my coworkers scoffed when I said Europe was doomed and going to become third world. I was really short Europe without knowing too many details, mainly short socialism. Recently we went to do a quick tour of the PIGS countries because I had a big bet on- Portugal, Ireland, Greece, and Spain.

Similarities: Really expensive gas, like 8-9 USD a gallon. People stay up really late (except maybe Ireland). For example we would walk into “the best tapas place in Barcelona” after 1AM. Many restaurants don’t even open till after 8:30pm.

Differences: In order of cheapness, the countries were Portugal, Greece, Ireland, Spain. Lisbon seemed worst off. I didn’t see as many young people and it was like an older, hilly, less polished version of Barcelona. Spain surprisingly seemed to be doing amazingly, though we were in Madrid and Barcelona which might not be super representative. Barcelona was really beautiful. It was extremely clean and livable, filled with drunk tourists.

And now I feel sad Europe is doomed and wish they wouldn’t collapse. Now I feel like they can do some things in the next year or so to stave off doom for a while longer. It’s such a waste- Europe is so old and cool! But things like this happen all the time. Civilizations, countries, companies- everything ages, fails to adapt, and evaporative cooling always happens: high energy people leave, however you define high energy.

I was thinking about Eliezer’s evaporative cooling idea for human groups since learning Eduardo Saverin gave up his US citizenship. Anyone who gives up their US citizenship is no joke one way or another- politically, ideologically, financially… But almost no one leaves the USA forever. Europe, however- educated Europeans are leaving their countries. And anyone who disagrees sufficiently with policy also leaves. So what remains are people who don’t have the resources to leave, or who really agree with the policies, so that the remaining group becomes increasingly entrenched ideologically. Does anyone return after the policy changes? Do refugees eventually return to their countries?

Ways to stave off group cooling:
1) Be picky about who you let in initially, maybe continuously raising the average bar.
2) Don’t force outliers out (maybe make it easy for them to form subgroups within the original group?).
3) Do something to heat up the group once in a while?

We’re going to Iceland and some other places soon. Let me know if you’re going to be there too!