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Problems as dragons and papercuts

1 Post author: Elo 03 November 2017 01:41AM

Original post: http://bearlamp.com.au/problems-as-dragons-and-papercuts/

When I started trying to become the kind of person that can give advice, I went looking for dragons.

I figured if I didn't know the answers that meant the answers were hard, they were big monsters with hidden weak spots that you have to find. "Problem solving is hard", I thought.

Problem solving is not something everyone is good at because problems are hard, beasts of a thing.  Right?

For all my searching for problems, I keep coming back to that just not being accurate. Problems are all easy, dumb, simple things. Winning at life is not about taking on the right dragon and finding it's weak spots.

Problem solving is about getting the basics down and dealing with every single, "when I was little I imprinted on not liking chocolate and now I have been an anti-chocolate campaigner for so long for reasons that I have no idea about and now it's time to change that".

It seems like the more I look for dragons and beasts the less I find.  And the more problems seem like paper cuts. But it's paper cuts all the way down.  Paper cuts that caused you to argue with your best friend in sixth grade, paper cuts that caused you to sneak midnight snacks while everyone was not looking, and eat yourself fat and be mad at yourself.  Paper cuts.

I feel like a superhero all dressed up and prepared to fight crime but all the criminals are petty thieves and opportunists that got caught on a bad day. Nothing coordinated, nothing super-villain, and no dragons.

When I was in high school (male with long hair) I used to wear my hair in a pony tail.  For about 4 years.  Every time I would wake up or my hair would dry I would put my hair in a pony tail.  I just did.  That's what I would do.  One day.  One day a girl (who I had not spoken to ever) came up to me and asked me why I did it.  To which I did not have an answer.  From that day forward I realised I was doing a thing I did not need to do.  It's been over 10 years since then and I have that one conversation to thank for changing the way I do that one thing.  I never told her.

That one thing.  That one thing that is irrelevant, and only really meaningful to you because someone said this one thing, this one time. but from the outside it feels like, "so what".  That's what problems are like, and that's what it's like to solve problems.  But.  If you want to be good at solving problems you need to avoid feeling like "so what" and engage the "curiosity", search for the feeling of confusion.  Appeal to the need for understanding.  Get into it.


Meta: this has been an idle musing for weeks now. Actually writing took about an hour.

Cross posted to https://www.lesserwrong.com/posts/MWoxdGwMHBSqNPPKK/problems-as-dragons-and-papercuts

Comments (1)

Comment author: J_Thomas_Moros 03 November 2017 03:22:34PM *  0 points [-]

I'm not sure I agree. Sure, there are lots of problems of the "papercut" kind, but I feel like the problems that concern me the most are much more of the "dragon kind". For example:

  1. There are lots of jobs in my career field in my city, but there don't seem to be any that are actually do one of: do truly quality work, work on the latest technology where everything in the field will go in my opinion or produce a product/service that I care about. I'm not saying I can't get those jobs, I'm saying in 15+ years working in this city I've never even heard of one. I could move across country and it might solve the job problem, but leaving my family and friends is a "dragon".
  2. Meeting women I want to date seems to be a dragon problem. I only know 2 women who I have met that meet my criteria.
  3. I have projects I'd like to accomplish that will take many thousands of hours each. Given constraints of work, socializing, self care and trying to meet a girlfriend (see item 2), I'm looking at a really really long time before any of these projects nears completion even if I was able to be super dedicated to devoting a couple hours a day to them, which I have not been able to.