Oct 01, 2023

Definition: The Pareto principle is the idea that roughly 80% of the output comes from 20% of the input. More generally we can consider power laws, i.e., densities of the form \(f(x) \propto x^{-k}\). Natural phenomena which follow this distribution typically scale with exponent between 2 and 3 which means they have a mean but “infinite” variance, and in particular the Pareto principle is attained when \(k = \log_{4}5 + 1\). Most commonly we hear this in the context that the last 20% takes 80% of the effort. Corollary: Completion theoretically impossible but regardless you must embrace the diminishing marginal returns if you care to continue towards your goal.

anyone miss minecraft?

I rarely take things to completion. Of all the games I’ve played, the only game I’ve 100%-ed is Enter the Gungeon. When I’m eating rice, I have to will myself to clean up the last grains of rice scattered around the bowl. Through all of my pursuits in this life so far I’ve never reached the professional level; not music, not gaming, not waterpolo, not academic research (although this one comes close), not chess, and not coffee (which feels the most attainable of the list). Even my drafts for this blog! I’d like to think that this is for a lack of trying.

Leaving things unfinished, my mind is a mausoleum occupied by those not fully at rest. Undead projects wail through the chamber doors. Why have you abandoned me? I have not. At least I don’t want to admit to myself that I have. I can no longer taste the satisfaction of exitting the gungeon for the last time but I do recall the sense of peace. Is that what I’m missing when I leave 20% unfinished? If 80% of the satisfaction also comes from 20% of the effort what are the circumstances that necessitate going to 100% nonetheless? I find myself haunted by the what-ifs. Rather than existing in the present or looking to the future I find myself lingering on what could have been if I hadn’t given up on that lattice points project, if I didn’t quit the symphony … if I had answered with what you wanted to hear instead of my truth.

My life as I knew it did not feel so different from a video game. I checked on the achievement tree. Time was measured by progress versus a calendar. Getting 80 for 20 felt like the greatest deal I’ve ever made, so good that I didn’t think about what I was giving up. There are so many things to try! But there were now too many things to neglect. When the high of the new fixation subsides, when we run out of love for what we were doing - what then? Along the Hudson river I hear about how many guys there are out there and that she can do better. He just started taking ceramics classes. She’s training for a marathon in 5 months. I daydream a thousand lives I could live.

i kinda do

I often think back to Ben Kuhn’s article about outliers which I’ve linked enough times on this blog. I probably let it influence my life too much. I’ve spent so much time searching that I almost forgot that I can create. Make your own outliers. Because we exist in reality where at the end of the day we only have finite trials; expectancy is great but sometimes you just need results. And when it comes to happiness and peace can we really compromise?

From waterpolo practice years ago I was drilled to minimize time in transition. Minimize the time between decisions. Unlike everything else in life, choices are binaries; time will pass without you if you remain in superposition. But what about optimization? How much longer will you fixate on your starting point before you awake to the glimmer on the horizon? Race towards it. Go as far as you can.