DRMacIver's Notebook

Why are things hard?

Why are things hard?

I've recently started a Substack Newsletter called "How to do hard things", based on my unexpectedly popular post of the same name.

There will be a lot of overlap between the newsletter and this notebook. I'm not quite sure how I'm going to use it yet, but I'm expecting there will be a bit of a back and forth, with the newsletter being a place I use to collect and develop themes I've written about here, which will in turn spark more notebook posts here. If you're enjoying the notebook, I'd also recommend subscribing to the substack. For now at least, you don't need to sign up for a paid tier - the content is the same for all subscribers, but with the discussion / community features turned on for paid ones.

Anyway, this has got me thinking about The Fully General System For Learning To Do Hard Things. I still think it's a good framework, but I think it's missing a lot of important features - some of which only require additions to it, some of which might require some modifications.

One of the principle problems with it is, I think, the fact that what it does is extremely under defined. What is a "hard thing"? And how does one learn to do it?

The principle assumption in the post is that things are hard because you lack the skill to do them effortlessly. It's true, some things are like that. But that's a relatively tiny fraction of the ways in which things can be hard, and most things that are hard in one way are hard in multiple, not necessarily easily distinguishable, ways.

The Fully General System as previously described really only admits three possible reasons why things might be hard:

But there are quite a few other ways in which things can be hard. Here is a partial list:

Additionally there are a whole bunch of general reasons why doing anything might be hard for you:

In general, most hard things are some mix of multiple of these things, and usually not a small number of them, and any truly general system for learning to do hard things must take this into account.