from First Principles
Author’s note: I’m seeing great feedback on this post! Different approaches to living truly fascinate me. How do you choose your beliefs? How do you decide what’s important? I’m genuinely interested, so feel free to email me or use your favorite comments section.
Related: Case Study: Taylor’s Lifestyle Design
Few truths are self-evident. To start from zero, choose independently-verifiable axioms.
Few truths are useful. Philosophy is generally impractical.
Two premises seem obvious and useful:
- Premise 1: suffering is bad
Premise 2: consciousness exists; entropy exists; attention is scarce
- thrive: maximize attention
Don’t suffer. Thirst, hunger, sickness, cold, fatigue, etc. are not mysterious forces.
To continue living, maintain your body and mind for as long as possible.
Sustain Your Body
Health sciences are complex. It can take a lifetime to master biology, chemistry, and nutrition. In the beginning, use simple heuristics:
- What traits do healthy people have in common?
- What traits do unhealthy people have in common?
Consensus favors the following advice:
- drink a moderate amount of water
- eat a moderate amount of nutritious foods
- sleep plenty
- regulate body temperature
- exercise often
Most people earn money to procure food, water, and housing.
Convincing others to give you money can be difficult. Finance isn’t friendly. Much like health, use simple heuristics to strategize wealth accumulation:
- What traits do wealthy people have in common?
- What traits do poor people have in common?
To make living easy, align yourself with reality. Many problems are fabricated when your mind diverges from the world around you.
You can independently verify your software bugs by studying your mind. Your experience exists, but do you control it? Sit idly and focus on your breath – what can you observe about yourself?
Your brain is plastic. Many errant thought patterns can be corrected through observation and practice:
- mistaking sensory input for reality
- maintaining unproductive emotions
- obsessing over trifles
- hallucinating facts
- ignoring biases
To supercharge self-observations, probe others. Engage in deep conversations.
Assume others exist. Pretend like everybody experiences your same range of pain and pleasure.
Life is a mapless territory. You are a faulty compass.
Many people peddle maps for the mapless territory. Few worldviews produce any consistent effect. Simple heuristics fail at this level.
Maps may not be suitable, but your mind guides your body like a magnet suspended in fluid. Consciousness is a clunky compass.
Attention & Happiness
You are finite.
To maximize your remaining experience, optimize the two largest levers in your mind: attention & happiness.
Pursue balance. Unconscious bliss is pointless; neutral focus is boring.
Drugs enable you to sacrifice attention for happiness. Would you choose to live in a euphoric ketamine/fentanyl twilight? Would you prefer to be dimly aware but incredibly happy?
True happiness demands awareness of happiness.
Attention is the act of spending consciousness.
But attention varies in quality. Observe your mind driving, sleeping, cooking, watching television, writing, doing math homework, etc.
Human compasses tend toward delights. Nobody chooses their interests; delights are unique and unexplainable. Avoid self-destructive delights to extend your healthspan.
To find delights, follow your attention.
Immerse yourself in pastimes.
Focus on fun.