Choose Your Own Adventure

When I was a kid, I remembered reading "Choose Your Own Adventure" books found in my school library. Each book would make you choose how the story continued by turning to a unique page based on your choices. Usually, one ended the story tragically for your character, while the other continued the adventure until you came to another choice. This followed until you got to a good ending, which would be the end of the story.

A book wasn't long because with all the alternate endings, the full story was quite short. I remembered cheating by looking up both options before deciding on how to continue. It took the fun out of the story, but at least I made the right choice. But life doesn't function that way though. If only we had a magic crystal ball to determine whether we made the right decision, then we would find our good endings, right?

It's not the same in real life because we usually don't come to life or death choices (phew!). Our typical choices are on a continuum, and for many of us, we are choosing between alternatives that are all favorable. For example, if I had to choose between sushi, pizza, fried chicken, or steak for dinner, I know that I can't go wrong, unless the sushi wasn't prepared properly, the pizza was underdone, the fried chicken was burnt, or worst of all, the steak was cooked well-done.

However, choices for one person are different for another. The vegetarian would pick the pizza. Someone on a keto diet would choose fried chicken or steak. How we come to a decision also depends on a degree of context unique to each person. Time can also affect decision making, whether it be a deadline to make a decision, or the duration until consequences come into play. For example, if you walked into a store five minutes before closing and their sale ended that day, you would have little time to think about a purchase. Then if you made a purchase on your credit card, the consequence is delayed.

One area of decision making I struggle with is choosing a suitable leisure activity. I'm fortunate to have some leisure time, but I end up stressing myself out when I can't decide what to do. That's really sad. What's also ironic is that I tend to study topics that all have a common theme: decision making! As attributed to Aristotle, "The more you know, the more you realize you don't know."

Math: I'm trying to understand calculus and linear algebra better, with the goal of learning the prerequisites to machine learning, which would be teaching machines to make decisions.

Statistics: Though it's part of math, statistics is pretty much looking at past data in order to help future decision making. Probability and game theory = decision making!

Programming: In addition to statistical modeling and algorithms, learning programming really challenges me to think logically, which ultimately also helps with decision making. It's a combination of everything I've previously mentioned.

Psychology: How do we make decisions? When are we irrational? Why?

Philosophy: Stoicism - is it within my control, or out of my control? Enough said.

Coaching: What is the best way to develop an athlete? What parameters should I be developing in this periodic phase? Traditional vs. block periodization? External vs. internal motivation? Coaching as an art vs. science?

Strength & Conditioning: Should I lift weights or run? Which program do I follow?

Nutrition & Cooking: What should I eat? What recipe should I use?!

Finance & Investing: Should I actively or passively invest? Bitcoin? GME? Index funds?!


Writing: I'm writing this because I don't know what else to do, so I'm hoping it would help me decide. Writing and journaling are supposed to help clarify my thinking, but I don't think it's helping today. Analysis paralysis for the win (or loss, actually).

I probably missed a couple of things, but that's a blessing because if it's not on my mind, it's not important enough. I can see how the "less is better" slogan works in this scenario. Fortunately, I don't think any choice will be particularly terrible for me, other than choosing a mindless task: browsing social media, following the news, watching Netflix, or playing video games. Those have instant gratification ("Hey, I'm doing something!"), but consequences later ("I can't believe I wasted five hours... again!").

My solution to choosing is simple. After you have your available options, just choose randomly. Ask Google to pick a number and let randomness decide. If you don't like the decision, then it shouldn't have been there in the first place.

Ultimately, the final decision is the most important. You can choose to be content with your choice, or you can choose to be discontent. Hindsight always gives the illusion of a better choice, but only if you look. When you choose to be content, you also choose to ignore the alternatives.

Perhaps that's the key to happiness. Ignorance is bliss.

But that's for you to decide.
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