Observe your failures


"I always find the shittiest flats to rent". "I always bring bad board games". "I know that I should choose songs for parties based on popularity and not what I personally like, and yet I always make a playlist that makes me happy but everyone else doesn't like it".

The reason you want to observe your failures, write about them somewhere, tweet about them, is not that you will apply scientific method to them and figure something out. Meh.

The reason you want to observe your failures is that fixing them is much easier if you constantly remember that you want something, in background. First, it makes you more pragmatic. Second—you simply have more opportunities to fix things. You want to remember what was going on inside your head before you failed, so that you can divert yourself early on.

You don't want to know:

I drink two homemade cocktails and then I feel like shit the next day and my shoulders ache.

Instead, you want to know:

I finish work late, imagine how I'm going to go home and order takeout and feel lonely again, then I feel lonely in advance, go home, order takeout, feel lonely, take Martini out of the fridge, mix and drink two cocktails, feel like shit the next day and my shoulders ache.

The latter description provides many more points where you can break the pattern. Not starting the next task at work when you finish the current one and it's still early; accepting a colleague's invitation to have dinner together; cooking at home instead of ordering takeout; not buying the next Martini bottle when this one gets empty; not buying juice for cocktails; giving the Martini bottle to your sister when she visits you; drinking only one cocktail and not two.

You want to remember, at every point, "if I don't do this I won't feel like shit tomorrow and my shoulders won't ache". Then, at one of the points, you can break the pattern.


I have a friend who I want to go to sleep earlier, and sometimes it's my fault that she doesn't. How am I solving this?

  1. I wanted to set an alarm: "1 AM: tell [friend] I'm going to sleep". But I know this won't work. I have observed enough failures. I know we'll be in the middle of a conversation or something, or it just won't be the right moment, and I will ignore the alarm. Instead, I set an alarm: "0:30 AM: wind down talking to [friend]". This works better because then I will remember not to start any things that can lead to a failure.
  2. But I haven't set an alarm for 1 AM, so it can still fail at 1 AM. I should set another alarm. I have observed, many many times, how I thought "X is a good idea" and then didn't do it and then blamed myself for it afterwards and felt bad. So I have set another alarm for 1 AM.
  3. And since I can also remember how many times I have written something and immediately got distracted, I did it in the middle of writing the sentence. Right after "another alarm" and before "for 1 AM".
  4. At 0:55 AM I wrote "I am going to sleep in five minutes". And then I added "actually not going to sleep, just going off". This is because I remembered the many times when I said I was going to sleep, couldn't fall asleep, correctly observed that I have not gone to sleep after all, and was like "oh hey I'm back".

You might recognize this as a pre-mortem of sorts. Well, fuck this. Pre-mortems don't work for me. My thing does. Yeah, it's suspiciously like a pre-mortem. The difference is that when doing a pre-mortem, you sit down and think "okay, how can this fail". What I do is live and remember "oh that's how it failed, it all started from this thing I am doing right now". This is different.


Perhaps the thing I'm actually saying is "when you already have a shitton of observations, maybe start acting on them". I'm not sure.


I just noticed a thing.

The thing is: I thought "shit, this post is another one of those rambles". And then I remembered the Romeo Stevens quote from Treat things as slot machines more often and thought: "Huh, but somebody could read this ramble and have thoughts of their own and get inspired by them and post something useful".

This mental move is complementary to "Observe your failures". It is—notice things that could potentially be successes, and go there. In this case, I have caught a glimpse of the thought "somebody could get inspired by what I write" and wrote a paragraph on it. I didn't have to but I wrote it anyway and now the glimpse is cemented in—it's still a glimpse but I'm more likely to remember it later—and I have moved the needle for my future self.

That's all for now.