Improvement as a means

In favor of urgency, salience, and feedback

23 Jun 2024

The Gist

My advice is if you want to improve at something, make the improvement optional but the participation mandatory. You have to go to the lifting meet, but it’s optional if you train. You have to host dinner every two weeks for your friends, but it’s optional if you clean your apartment or work on your cooking game. You have to go on dates, but it’s optional if you get fit or work on yourself.

More specifics

The failure mode is “I want to go to bachata socials, but I’m not good enough at bachata to attend, so I need to practice first”. And then you associate bachata with anxiety, and then you don’t do it. The solution is “I’m going to go to bachata socials, and it’s going to probably be slightly awkward until I get good, so I need to focus on getting good.” The need to improve becomes hyper-salient and directly impacts your life (how much you look forward to your weekly social dance). Your feedback loop around your improvement is much, much tighter than it would be if you’re just practicing alone, and you’re more likely to get positive reinforcement throughout the process because you’re exposing yourself to more feedback in general, and we usually overestimate how negatively we’ll be perceived for being bad at something.

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