While our results typically aren’t precisely what we wanted, they’re usually close when we experience them frequently. Frequently performed actions become habits when we imagine they’ll likely happen so similarly that we don’t have to think about them.
Our results aren’t necessarily physical. They can often be mental things like self-discipline, understanding, or influence among others. However, we can only observe the physical among others, so we tend to preoccupy ourselves with others’ external behaviors.
Results come largely from how well we’ve used what we have. Throughout history, there is a very limited link between opportunities people have available to them and how well they’ve taken advantage of them.
Reality responds to our results. But, there’s always a drawn-out time in the middle where we must wait for those results.
We constantly reap consequences of past decisions. From instant to instant, every experience we have is merely the consequences of a previous version of us making those decisions. The only question is how far, since 5 seconds feels very different from 5 years.
We discover we’re wrong all the time, but still reap consequences after we’ve learned from them:
- The choices we make are sometimes poorly researched.
- Our methods are sometimes not ideal or don’t give us what we want.
- We have old understanding or past trauma that needs updating.
- We trust some people or groups too much or too little.
- We’ll often conclude the wrong cause and repeat the same problem.
The situation isn’t particularly fair because we must suffer the consequences of a decision we made when we hadn’t understood, sometimes years or decades later. That period of unknown consequences frequently mean we create bad habits that are much harder to change than if we had been educated outright by our environment.
There are only a few solutions to this unfair situation:
- A healthy childhood to learn things beforehand.
- Observe others’ bad decisions instead of making them ourselves.
- Have good friends who will call us out on our bad decisions.
Once we gain the wisdom to look ahead, we will sacrifice the gain of our present self for the advantages of our predicted future self, and will slowly gravitate toward a more pleasant life from it. On the other hand, if we grow to distrust any long-term effects, we’ll do nothing that isn’t pleasurable right now. There’s zero risk in complaining and perpetual amusement, but no long-term benefit either.
There are two broad types of consequences:
- Relational consequences affect our relationships and aspects of understanding with others and status in a group.
- Reality consequences affect fact-based circumstances.
We can usually do many things to shift around our relational consequences when we fail, but reality consequences are much harder to hide.
Consequences are not always directly connected. Sometimes they can link as a chain of events with many associations until they reach an actual decision. We are powerless to influence consequences proportionally to how many elements are in the chain.
Relational consequences are the highest-risk. The audience of what we create have their own preferences and values, and they may not even care how much we devoted ourselves to the task relative to how much they gain from it.
Since there’s very little personal usefulness to self-made art (as opposed to the convenience of something self-made like technology), most artistic endeavors are relational creations. Since artists already contend with the unknown to create (and they made it very personal in the process), the unknown dimension of seeing what others do with those results is often emotionally severe.
To perform well is to be successful, but a successful person is difficult to measure because we tend to look at a person as “one” success, but their success was many smaller decisions and consequences layered on top of one another as a dynamic building relationship between the creator, creation, and any audience who witnessed it.
The quality of a successful creation, however, is often defined by difficult-to-measure components. Beyond the time period’s fashions and existing technologies that make the task seem trivial, a well-received creation must feel “human” and sincere through many, many tiny imperfections placed throughout its work, and it must defy present trends without breaking too many taboos.
Going from awful to adequate takes much more work than going from adequate to successful:
- A task like playing a song may take performing 10,000 small tasks to successfully complete it perfectly.
- To achieve adequacy, that person may need to correctly perform 8,000.
- To achieve elegance, it may only require 9,000 (1,000 more).
- Something that would attract a large crowd might take 9,300 (300 more).
- The greatest player alive may have only attained 9,500 of them (200 more).
Even when we fully know simple things, they have a chance of failure. The line between success and failure is painfully thin (as little as 1% sometimes), so success is rarely certain. We are always susceptible to fumbling, miscommunicating, interference, obstructions, fatigue, and distractions.
We often can’t know many other things, many of which can further decrease our chances of success. We call it chances, luck, fate, improbability, or God, but it’s the unknown as it affects our purposes.
The result of a successful creation will always create more, similar creations by others. They may be derivative works or, in the case of intellectual properties or risks of civil liberties, a suppressed combination of ideas that form into something else that’s seen as entirely new. Either way, the effective creator starts trends.
We often imagine our greatest results happen when we’re relatively young, but that’s not necessarily true. As we mature, our understanding scales exponentially, so our greatest mental accomplishments often happen when we’re old.
We don’t respond well to failure. Usually, we’ll react inappropriately:
- Feel awful about the failure and its consequences.
- Drill into our perceptions of cause-and-effect and find the broken link in the chain.
- Focus all our effort into blaming and distancing from the perceived problem.
In reality, the “at fault” person or group isn’t easy to discern:
- The person controlling the object that caused a failure is partly at fault.
- Whoever directly manages that person is partly responsible for trusting them.
- Everyone else who trusted that person or endorsed the action is responsible.
- The object’s faulty design could be at fault, with all their creators.
- Everyone who helped distribute the object is responsible.
- Taken far enough, everyone is responsible, even God.
For all failings, everyone connected is at fault somehow, and it’s only a matter of assigning percentages. Since the entire planet is connected by about six degrees of social relationships, everyone is somewhat morally responsible for all bad things.
We should be finding ways to not see failure again in the future, but that requires halting the habit of blame. Most people don’t, though, because they feel injustice over the past trauma that haunts them, and they often start down the path to evil.
- A fifth cookie will never taste as good as the first.
- Reading a second novel by the same author won’t feel as strong as the first.
- Each can of food will be more valuable to a household with 10 of them versus 100.
- Two objects exert dramatically less gravity on each other the farther away they are (inverse square law)
- Each person in a corporation of 10,000 people isn’t as efficient as 100 corporations of 100 people.
- The amount of understanding we gain from learning decreases incrementally as we develop more expertise with it.
- Over time, the results from a creative work will evoke less feeling as its trend cycle develops.
This diminishing return creates upper limits on almost everything we do. Leading up to those limits, everything tapers off until it becomes prohibitively resource-intensive.
There are various reasons diminishing return exists:
- We want more power after we’ve gained it in proportional comparison to what we have, not incrementally to what we first had.
- Once things get too large for us to feel each additional increment, we tend to take more risks.
- In individual experiences, each additional iteration is another miniature story of something similar.
- In measurements, more distance or objects are harder to understand and account for.
- Organic tissues wear down and require energy to maintain, which becomes exponentially more as mass increments.
Most people, upon noting diminishing return, will change their tactic:
- They’ll scale up to accommodate the decreased gain.
- They’ll shift their tactic to use another base of power to get what they want.
- Barring addictions, they’ll shift to another purpose.
- They’ll give up on the endeavor entirely and learn to live without something.
Diminishing return isn’t necessarily bad. It’s usually a sign that our purpose isn’t working and inspires us to lose confidence in it. However, that requires having a temporary agnosis, so most people tend to shift to addiction instead.
This trend won’t have the passion and creative spark of its original design (especially since its original creator has changed), so it will be nowhere near as memorable or interesting as its original, even while being far more polished and well-made.
By observing and exploring, through repeated exposure and rumination, various memories of cause-and-effect, someone can often develop an imagination that is accurate enough to reliably predict large-scale effects of smaller actions.
However, there are multiple reasons it’s generally wiser to be skeptical of anyone who claims to predict the future beyond basic reasoning:
- Predicting the future requires tremendous effort and has a very limited scope (e.g., an investment advisor won’t be able to predict tax trends).
- When someone actually does predict the future, it’s debatable how well they performed, especially if they were vague.
- Often, the people who spend time calculating predictions tend to fail at communicating it well enough to start a trend.
- We’re all very prone to error, and tend to redirect attention when we fail at something, and some bad predictions are legendary!
Give people at least some grace. If they know they’ve screwed up, and are reaping consequences for it, there’s no need to keep reminding them, since they have to live with those consequences.
With the exception of the people who entertain us, we tend to imagine ourselves as less capable than we really are. This means there’s always untapped potential within everyone except professional entertainers.
Usually, throughout history, the strongest ruled, either through keeping their strength or taking it from others. In a free society, though, the most popular rule, usually by taking advantage of what they have to have the best-looking appearance of efficiency, morality, or quality. In that sense, equality is always impossible without removing consequences. Leftism claims that it can remove consequences and retain purpose.
How a culture acquired its wealth determines how well it empowers its creators more than how much wealth it has.
Everyone is only as responsible for their results to the degree they haven’t learned better from it.
While adequacy is statistically normal, unusually successful people do a few things to compensate:
- Expect that everything will go wrong, and become freakishly good at what they can control to compensate.
- Self-educate about where unknown aspects can come from, and plan ahead for them.
- Predict the small margins that can magnify their work the most. Those infinitesimally small margins in pretty much any field, over time, create an exponential return.
People tend to credit successes to themselves, and failures to their environment. Attributing failures to oneself requires humility, but pays well in succeeding, and attributing successes to others is often a meaningful experience in itself.
One fascinating element of diminishing return arises in how we understand. We can often become profoundly good at performing or growing in understanding, even when a core component of how we understand is completely wrong. By shifting our ideas (often as simple as merely changing beliefs about one sentence) we can remove many limits by un-understanding something that was wrong.
Artists are hypersensitive to the responses to their creative works because they’ve poured their hearts into it. The rest of the world must give artists more grace, and artists must learn to emotionally detach from what they create after they’re finished with it.
Fan theories and hacks, while often hilarious, are brilliant ways the public answers clear story and engineering failures the original creator could never have considered. These theories show the consumers have been so affected by the creative work that they decide to produce for themselves.
Unless a content creator has an alternative form of income, they’ll eventually cash in and sell out. This will often include affiliate marketing, selling lower-quality offerings, and a general deterioration in quality.