I’m a researcher at Stanford studying AI and humans.
I’ve sucked at decision-making for as long as I can remember.
I remember standing there, spending hours deciding between a red pencil box and a slightly bigger blue one. What the actual fuck. This was no way to life.
Picking colleges. Choosing an internship. These things should have been 🎉 joyous, 💫 happy moments . Instead, they were turned into months of arduous, pain-filled struggle.
I dragged my friends & family into it. I’d regret it, change my mind.
For me to become even remotely functional, I had to 🪓 deconstruct & build from scratch 🏗 the way I thought about decisions.
I want to share that with you.
I was prompted to write this after the 10th or 11th time a friend or client came to me for help with a major life decision. Quitting their job. Moving countries. Somehow, after talking to therapists and life coaches and family, it was only after me that they felt the conviction to take the call. Stay/quit. They felt good about it. Not sure if they were totally right, but they felt okay making the call.
I hope the meta-lesson is: those who’ve struggled the most have often had to question society’s assumptions the most to even become functional. They might have the most to offer sometimes. What you struggled with, deconstructed, and overcame is valuable—and worth sharing.
Are you selling snake oil? This conviction seems fake/dangerous to me.
I’m not selling anything. This is free.
One might think that my methods are more about 🙈 tricking yourself into conviction rather than acknowledging uncertainty. Magical hypnosis genie methods for fake conviction.
I think of making decisions as navigating life. Journeying as a ship. 🌊🌊🚢
I don’t like the “fork in the road” metaphor at all.
🤮. It induces anxiety, makes me think of 🪓 closing off paths, and makes it seem I can ⏳ sit there all day deciding.
Sea-faring, on the other hand?
It makes it clear life will not wait—I can make the decision or not. Always moving, not sitting at a fork, dynamic. I can’t wait endless because I am in motion and I will hit the rocks if I do.
It makes it clear this is navigation, inherently tricky, clouded by the fog of the future. Decisions have consequences, but you can navigate back around. It makes it almost even a bit fun, and romantic.
A fork is a tribulation to pass. Navigating a ship isn’t even just about the destination! The cruise itself is the point. The ports you visit, the sights you see. It’s not so much “getting to point B” or “picking the right fork” as experience-after-experience as you navigate through life rather than towards a place.
Who are you bringing along on your ship? You might be steering a team, or a crew.
You can have a big cruise liner (stable job, many homes). You can’t navigate as easily, starting and stopping takes a long time (can’t just move to a new country), but you can host a lot of people abroad (spouse? family? friends?), give them a place to live, and have security.
Or you can have a nimble kayak. Be travelling the world, a digital nomad or backpacker, though you can only fit 1 or 2. A storm can wipe you out, but you can also more easily avoid it. Probably harder to raise a family.
When you zoom out to the macro of decision-making, it’s these questions—your general life nimbleness vs largesse, the constantly evolving exploration—that are