Fire and forget


I want to talk about the concept of statelessness. "Fire and forget." The more things in your life you can fire and forget, the easier it is to live.

Statelessness is—when you have organized your life in such a way that there are no things you have to keep track of. Everything reminds about itself. If you don't remember about something, it is going to be fine. Your already existing routines can support your life indefinitely. In other words, you get slack (see You need more slack).

If you don't have great memory, statelessness is very liberating. It can make your life 10–20% better.

Here is how to achieve statelessness.

The milk example

When you run out of milk and you think "okay, I have to remember to go to the shop tomorrow, and I have to remember to buy milk when I'm there"—this is stateful.

A stateless system would be:

  • This is my shopping list. Here it is.
  • I add things to it when I notice I ran out of something.
  • I buy everything on the shopping list when I go to the shop.
  • I go to the shop once a week on Saturday, no matter what. I already have a habit of doing that.

Implementing statelessness in your life is hard. It's a cursed multi-vector-attack problem—you need to fix many things to achieve statelessness. But if you don't have good memory, every problem on the list is already a failure point, and one you can't do anything about, because memory is very hard to improve.

How to achieve statelessness

For stateless systems to work, a lot of pieces have to be reliable. Every step can fail in the milk example:

  • If your shopping list is on your fridge, and you are not home, you have to remember to add the milk to the shopping list when you're home.
  • You might be lazy to add the milk to the list because "I'll remember for sure".
  • Your dad says "oh I'll buy milk in a few days, it's cheaper in [another shop]".
  • The nearest shop doesn't stock milk, somehow. Or it stocks ordinary milk but they've run out of delicious 6% fat milk that is great for protein milkshakes.

So you can't get statelessness unless everything else is reliable. You need your shopping list to be in your phone. You need to remember to always charge your phone. You need to mistrust your memory. You need to mistrust your dad and tell him "no". You need to live near a well-stocked shop. You need to buy a big supply of milk because you're only going to the shop once a week.

Having enough money is awesome—because it buys you statelessness. If you don't care about discounts and can afford to always buy everything in the nearest shop, the system gets more reliable. If you don't care about delivery costs and can order everything via Amazon Prime, the system gets more reliable. Etc.

Having reliable employees, teammates, family members is awesome—because it buys you statelessness. You can fire tasks at people and forget about them. If something is needed from you, they'll let you know.

Having mature people around you is awesome—because it buys you statelessness. You don't have to keep track of people's emotional state if people are good at tracking their own emotional state (and are willing to help you have a better relationship with them).

Being good at execution is awesome—because it buys you statelessness. You can delegate tasks to future-you. You are not eaten alive by "Keeping all those tabs open reminds me about my goals. I need to feel guilty, or I will never do anything, ever". You don't have to drop everything you're doing right now so that you can work on an urgent task, when you trust yourself to do the urgent task tomorrow once the reminder goes off. Dropping everything you're doing right now is bad because you have to remember to pick it up, and have to remember how to pick it up. Instead, you can keep doing whatever you were doing, not losing the context, and just fire-and-forget the task at the future-you.


Some assorted notes on statelessness.

Twitter polls

I wish more things were helping with achieving statelessness.

A good example: Twitter polls. Fire and forget. They remind you when the poll is over. You get a notification.

(Very easy to forget about this when implementing polls, because "why would you need a notification". Because memory is precious, that's why.)

How to keep promises

To give meaningful promises, rewrite yourself. When you give a meaningful promise, you discover how to become a person who will be able to fulfill the promise. You rewrite yourself by saying “I want” and feeling it.

Otherwise it's easy to fall into state again. You gave a promise that is not "you". Now you are trying to impose a constraint on yourself, and you have to keep track of that constraint to keep being bound by it. That is state.

Keep the oil bottle closed

When you have an oil bottle on the countertop, always keep it closed, even if “I'll use it a bit later”. More statelessness.