Axel Heyst’s Mastermind Group

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AxelHeyst
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Re: ERE Mastermind Group

Post by AxelHeyst »

Thanks for the bump WRC, an update is long overdue! Let me recap from the beginning.

We settled with 7 members. We had an initial meet n greet call, and then did a “deep dive” with one person as the focus every two weeks. So the first session lasted 8*2 weeks. Since most members either had travel plans or life transitions to attend to, we felt like taking a “summer break” of a couple months. We maintained the every-two-weeks schedule, but it was “show up if you like, no specific agenda for the meeting” informal chatting and discussion. It was also good to take a break from the schedule and reflect a bit on the Mastermind group as a whole, and have more time to just “chat” and get to know each other better during the informal sessions.

We’re going to start up the “second session” at the end of September.

Structure
My idea at the beginning was that each member would identify ~2 “goals” or focuses to work on. I made a slide deck template for people to use, took notes, we tracked biweekly sub-goals, etc. All very corporate / agile / scrum / whatever. Some examples of goals/focuses people had:
.Start up a side hustle
.Draw a bunch of WL7/WoGs diagrams
.Declutter
.Improve cooking skill / reduce restaurant meals
.Start a garden
.Start an exercise program
.Learn about / implement an investment strategy
.Etc

A couple people never really created well-defined formal “goals”, not for lack of trying, but I think for lack of appropriateness to their circumstance. And a few people (myself included) who started with well-defined goals either heavily modified or completely changed their original goals, or wound up *mostly* abandoning the activity of “pursuing goals” altogether.

How the deep dives went ranged. At the more formal goal-setting end of the spectrum, for example, I presented my “plans” and current status for my two projects, which were “side hustle” and “make a bunch of WL7 diagrams”. I got a lot of feedback, ideas, and questions, which helped sort out some logistical issues, asked some questions I had overlooked, and also pressed me to define my “why” better.

At the less formal end of the spectrum, one member used their deep dive as a collaborative session on how to even approach goal-setting, how to think about structuring one’s life to accomplish desired outcomes, discussed procrastination and motivation, and other issues related to constructing and executing a pretty mature semiERE lifestyle.

And then another member used their deep dive as something that approached collaborative intellectual poetry.

——

So, by the end of the first session, I think we all had a sense that trying to stuff everyone in a “have two goals, do biweekly status reports” structure was simply inappropriate. My understanding of Mastermind Groups comes from business world, which are obviously very specific-outcome driven. ERE is necessarily different. We’ve discussed some broad ideas about how we can approach the Second Session:

Everyone gets a “deep dive” still, aka next Tuesday is going to be “my” call, and the session after that is going to be the next person’s, etc. But I’m going to have a broad range of options for how I want that call to go. I could…
.Present about and ask for feedback on an ongoing goal/project, as per the nominal idea behind Session 1.
.Give a presentation/lead a discussion on a specific topic. This could be something like a knowledge share (e.g. during the informal sessions I did a call on “psychological issues with Doing Something about climate change”, and I’m about to do another on “Fundamentals and Principles for thinking strategically about building design, with an emphasis on natural buildings and tiny homes”).
.I could even ask another member to kick off/lead a discussion about something I know *they* know about and want to know more about. e.g. maybe a member is an expert on investing, or permaculture, or dirtbagging, or fixing motorcycles.

So one way or another, we’re moving to a much more broad approach where we can use the time and space more or less however we like. Put another way, instead of trying to herd all the cats in one direction, we’re just letting the cats go wherever they like and enjoying the ride.



The Signal chats continue to be a source of great value and camaraderie. Some participate more than others. Sometimes we just post a pic of a garden harvest or a DIY, or a WL diagram (ha!), or a place we’re traveling. The bulk of the conversations in the channel start with a seed and go deep down a rabbit hole - investing, climate change, buildings, gardening, relationships, etc. Sometimes five days will go by with no new chats, and some days there will be 100 posts because a conversation really got going. (Probably most of us have that channel muted, so it doesn’t blow up our phones while we’re trying to do something else.)

We’ve had no issues, on the calls or in Signal, with drama. Even when we’re disagreeing, everyone does it respectfully. Every once in a while we have a love-fest and tell everyone how much we think everyone else is awesome.

Happy to answer any questions about the group if anyone has any.

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seanconn256
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Re: ERE Mastermind Group

Post by seanconn256 »

I'm quite interested, if there's space available, in either the signal chat or meetings.

I'm not sure how much content I would be able to contribute, other than bike maintenance or linux admin info, but I think getting to actually talk with people who do ere would be quite valuable.

AxelHeyst
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Re: ERE Mastermind Group

Post by AxelHeyst »

Hey seanconn! I should have mentioned this - the mastermind group is "full", as we've decided to cap it at 8. That said, I'd be very happy to help support the spin up of a second mastermind group, if there are enough folks interested.

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seanconn256
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Re: ERE Mastermind Group

Post by seanconn256 »

no prob - if enough people respond starting a second group would be great. good luck in the meantime.

AxelHeyst
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Re: ERE Mastermind Group

Post by AxelHeyst »

We’ve just finished our second ‘formal session’, and are doing some introspection as a group as to how it’s going.

Overall, it continues to be a positive and valuable experience. I *really* enjoy the group, our discussions, hearing what the other members are up to, and look forward to our calls.

The main point of discussion at this point of introspection is the balance between the group being a fun, chill ERE-friendly hang-out zone vs. a pressure cooker of intense ERE execution. It tends to the former at the moment.

During our calls we definitely focus on that person’s deep dive topic, brainstorm creatively, and are comfortable challenging the person to consider alternative perspectives or approaches. We don’t just hop on zoom and aimlessly ‘chat’ for an hour. But we don’t (at the moment) maintain an atmosphere of real structured, type-A “forward momentum on your well-defined Mastermind Project at all times at any cost”.

In other words, we let each other get away with slacking, losing definition of projects, changing our minds frequently, etc. We’re quite nice to each other, perhaps to a fault. How much of a fault that is is what’s up for discussion at the moment.

For one thing, ERE isn’t terribly straightforward. In a business-focused Mastermind, the goals are much more concrete and linear, with hard metrics impossible to fudge: increase profitability by x%, create a proposal for new hiring practice, develop a business plan for pushing into adjacent industry and present to the board, etc.

To a certain extent ERE goals can be broken down like this, but often we’ve discovered what we *think* is the right next project is actually not the most appropriate next project, or we’ve defined it with N-1 thinking and need to redefine it with N+1 thinking, or the idea that project X needed doing was false from the beginning and the real solution was just to let that urge to “do” anything go gently into the ether… So often what we think is “the work” is just the preamble to deliver us to “the work”, which is a much subtler thing that would have been incredibly difficult to write down under “desired outcome” on our project slide deck.

Speaking of subtle work, it’s a known dynamic that perhaps *the* primary obstacle for making progress in one’s ERE journey is social pressure to conform to status quo society. Few of us are surrounded by family, friends, and colleagues that “get” ERE. Some of us can’t even really talk to our SO’s about it. It’s like a weird porn habit, a double life in the closet. That’s a HUGE barrier to making permanent internalized mindset shifts. The forum is great as the one place on the internet where we all “get it”… but we’re also all strangers, most of us anonymous. On the forum we aren’t as real to each other as our friends asking us out to the brewpub after work.

The Mastermind group is the next level up from the forum in terms of normalizing ERE behavior. I know the faces, voices, and real names of all the group members. I know what the inside of most of their living rooms look like, what their sense of humor is like, what tone of voice they use when they’re being sarcastic vs. genuine, etc. And all these people get ERE, and help make “thinking and behaving in ERE” more real. They’re a buffer against the tsunami of status quo society. If “you are the average of the five people you hang out with the most”, the group is a significant vote vast for “ERE”.

So even though we might have been slacking a bit compared to a professional-focused Mastermind group, we’ve all been making solid progress in our ERE journeys — even in areas we never formally brought up as “our mastermind project”. And I attribute a lot of this progress to the social permission we give each other.

With all that in mind, we’re discussing various ways to turn the knob up a bit on pressure to stay focused on projects, hold each other more accountable, etc, without making it not fun or overly uncomfortable, recognizing that that easy sociability is part of the magic of making us more effective in our ERE journeys.



Someone commented that joining the MMG felt like the difference between being a lurker and starting a journal, in terms of leveling up ERE momentum. I’d like to make that even more powerful with some of the tuning we’re doing right now.

I’m planning on developing some easier to follow “How to spin up an ERE MMG” posts, and also would be very happy to help anyone start a MMG. I think you could have an effective group with as few as two people, although at least three might be much more dynamic. Eight people (our current group size) is manageable but quite big - I definitely recommend against any more than 8.

If anyone is interested, a way to get “the right group” together is probably to post in your journal that you’re interested in starting a mmg. The people who follow your journal most assiduously are likely to be the best candidates for good group chemistry.

AxelHeyst
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Re: Axel Heyst’s Mastermind Group

Post by AxelHeyst »

We’re in between formal sessions, and just had a call to discuss the structure of the formal sessions and any improvements we could make to it.

A main topic was the balance between the space to be flexible with our projects and having enough accountability to actually make good progress. The value proposition of MMGs, after all, is it’s a big accountability boost that motivates us to do well on our projects. ERE, though, is unique in that often what we *think* is the right thing to be working on actually isn’t, and so we all have had the experience of pivoting, reframing projects, abandoning them, and just wallowing in baffled confusion about how to even approach things.

Out of this topic came a tweak to how we run the formal session.

..First, we’ll start with 2-3 calls where people give ~20min presentations/discussions on their intended project(s). This gets everyone “started”.
..Then, we do normal deep dive calls for ~8 calls. Each call is a deep dive on one person’s topic.
..At the end, we have another 2-3 calls where people give ~20min presentations on how their projects went. It’s likely that many of us will talk about how we started with Project X, then changed our minds and went to Project Y. The idea, as Quadalupe put it, is there’s an expectation of *explainability*. It’s fine to pivot - but you have to be able to explain *why* you pivoted, what you learned from the attempt, and why you chose to do Y instead.

When we want to have a guest or do a special presentation, which we’ve done from time to time, we just insert it into the schedule. No need to wait until after the whole formal session is done (which is now at about 12-14 calls, 24-28 weeks in length).

We’ve also identified that even within the group, it’s hard to remember what everyone is doing and so it’s easy to forget to ask about how a specific initiative is going. We’re going to have a go at buddying up so there are 1:1 accountability partners.

Finally, all the extra accountability-related stuff is opt-out. It’s possible some members might feel that the primary value they get from the group is in the ERE-permissive social interaction, and wouldn’t respond well to any higher accountability pressure. That’s fine. These people still show up regularly, give really insightful feedback, and care about the group. That relationship to accountability and structure is welcome.

Western Red Cedar
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Re: ERE Mastermind Group

Post by Western Red Cedar »

I want to provide a debrief after my first formal MM group session. I've not mentioned much about the MM group in my journal - primarily because I snuck in the group for the last remaining spot during the second session and wanted to observe a full session and get comfortable with the norms before posting on the forums.

I initially avoided joining the group due to concerns about anonymity, because I'm pretty busy with work and my personal life, and because I felt relatively happy with my ERE path and FI journey. This was incredibly stupid in hindsight and I'm glad I ultimately decided to join the group. It's been quite valuable just to have an alternative social circle to bounce ERE related ideas off and to share success stories.
AxelHeyst wrote:
Sat Jan 15, 2022 12:39 pm
Someone commented that joining the MMG felt like the difference between being a lurker and starting a journal, in terms of leveling up ERE momentum. I’d like to make that even more powerful with some of the tuning we’re doing right now.
This was my quote from one of our Signal chats. I saw a strong parallel between my ERE journey when creating an account and when joining the MM group. Before each step, I felt pretty comfortable with my ERE/FI path. After creating my journal, I started doing a lot of fun and interesting new things, like baking bread, pickling new vegetables, breaking distance records on my bicycle, and changing my perspectives on travel.

For those lurking out there who have thought about creating an account, I'd strongly encourage you to do so. Create a journal and help others while you help yourself. I'd also encourage forum members to join a MM group. It is an great opportunity to keep building skills and expand your social network with like-minded people.

I established two projects that would mesh well with my future plans to travel. They fell under the general goals of health and minimalism. I hit my minimalism targets pretty quickly - perhaps within the first 6-8 weeks. This included getting rid of a 50+ books, lots of old research papers and other superfluous documents, along with clothes, kitchen items, and other random things. I'm at the point now where I feel a pretty strong connection to everything I have, but I know I could get rid of more stuff. I still find a couple items per week that I pass on or put in a little free library. The biggest fail with this project was selling stuff online. DW and I sorted a few bags of clothes that are pretty high-end and we could probably sell for at least $500. It's a skill I haven't developed, and it is hard for me to justify spending some of my limited free time on the weekends, though I know this is a bit of a WL fail and a salaryman mindset trap.

Based on the feedback I received during my deep dive, I also started thinking about minimalism more broadly. I've been more conscious about time commitments on the weekends, the relationships I'm investing in, and my approach to work. Simplification in all of these areas has been great for my productivity and happiness.
AxelHeyst wrote:
Sat Jan 15, 2022 12:39 pm
During our calls we definitely focus on that person’s deep dive topic, brainstorm creatively, and are comfortable challenging the person to consider alternative perspectives or approaches. We don’t just hop on zoom and aimlessly ‘chat’ for an hour. But we don’t (at the moment) maintain an atmosphere of real structured, type-A “forward momentum on your well-defined Mastermind Project at all times at any cost”.

For one thing, ERE isn’t terribly straightforward. In a business-focused Mastermind, the goals are much more concrete and linear, with hard metrics impossible to fudge: increase profitability by x%, create a proposal for new hiring practice, develop a business plan for pushing into adjacent industry and present to the board, etc.

To a certain extent ERE goals can be broken down like this, but often we’ve discovered what we *think* is the right next project is actually not the most appropriate next project, or we’ve defined it with N-1 thinking and need to redefine it with N+1 thinking, or the idea that project X needed doing was false from the beginning and the real solution was just to let that urge to “do” anything go gently into the ether… So often what we think is “the work” is just the preamble to deliver us to “the work”, which is a much subtler thing that would have been incredibly difficult to write down under “desired outcome” on our project slide deck.
My experience on the health goals serve as a good example for this quote. I wanted to create something with clear metrics, and I had a goal to get down to 10-15% body fat, with some specific weight loss targets. I received some great feedback during my deep dive, though some of it took a while for me to process. One member asked me what my plans were if I got injured, which was ultimately really helpful as I developed some tendonitis from weight lifting in late November. I was prepared to adapt when that occurred. I also realized, as a result of the MM feedback, that weight might not be the best metric if I was regularly lifting weights and trying to bulk.

I was always pretty consistent with workouts, but as a result of the bi-weekly check-ins I started tracking calories and macronutrients (for a while) and I started taking measurements monthly so I had better data than just the scale and the mirror. In December, I shifted my focus to mental health which ultimately led to staying consistent with a morning routine of meditation, gratitude journal, and stoic reflection. This is something that I wanted to establish for the last couple years but had never solidified the habit. I've also started tracking my intermittent fasting periods.

The last couple weeks I finally followed @AxelHeyst's recommendation to look into Katy Bowman. I picked up three of her books and am now in the middle of a deep dive into biomechanics. I've dealt with foot pain off and on ever since running a marathon a little over ten years ago. It's really annoying and limiting in some of my physical adventures and future plans. She's helped me put together a number of the puzzle pieces I've identified through previous research and work with physical therapists. Last weekend I was looking through old photos to assess my posture and gait. Sure enough, I regularly kick my right foot out when posing in these photos. I knew that the outside heels of my shoes seem to wear out, but I now have a clearer picture of what's going on. I'm basically moving incorrectly, and I believe it is the result of over-supination. This week I've started focusing on strengthening muscles in my feet and certain toe exercises to reinvigorate joints and muscles atrophied from shod feet.

So....I went from "I want to lose 5-10 pound with visible abs" to deep dives into biomechanics, autophagy, meditation, and stoicism.

--------

I also think that I've probably finally made the shift from WL 5/5.5 to WL 6 - at least in terms of my thinking. In January I decided to stop focusing exclusively on these two goals/projects and started tracking a number of goals and habits. It is another way to hold myself accountable, and after 6 weeks I've started to have some insights on homeotelic goals and actions that were staring me in the face for years.

AxelHeyst
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Re: Axel Heyst’s Mastermind Group

Post by AxelHeyst »

Wow, I've been slacking in updating the forum about the MMG.

The structure continues to evolve every cycle. We're just now starting up our... Fifth? cycle. This is the basic way we're set up now:

The cycle starts with short intros. Anyone who wants to gets 15min to give a presentation on their project for the cycle, where they are at, what they want to focus on, etc. This takes 2-3 calls, depending on how many people want to do an intro.

Then, were going to do a "group topic dive" call. This is brand new. The idea is we agree on a topic to read up on, and we have a signal channel dedicated to discussion of it in advance of the call where we chat about it. We selected Boyle's books except for Molotov Cocktails, as it's just a bit too ideological. We're going to start the call with a round robin where everyone answers the question "what were your practical takeaways, how has your system changed due to reading Boyle?" From there we'll let the discussion take it's course.

The signal chat has been lively. We already had the cap vs. anticapitalist chat, as well as the civ vs anticiv chat, with people on all sides of the spectrum on those issues, and the conversations were always respectful and intellectually honest (aka no bad faith arguments). Which as far as I'm concerned, in 2022, is magic. I continue to be enormously grateful to this group. Awesome people.

(That's another new thing: when doing our project checkins, we start with a quick gratitude shout-out.)

After the Boyle call, we'll be on to the regular schedule of deep dives. Everyone has to "do" a deep dive, but what the topic is is up to them. They can ask for discussion/feedback on their project or general ERE situation, which is the default, or they could give a topical presentation on something practical they know about.

Some people have really explicitly defined projects with milestones and dates and everything. Some have really loosely defined projects or no defined projects at all. For example I'm actually on a hiatus from making future oriented Plans as a way of avoiding any kind of extrinsic motivation traps, and so what I do is try to tell an accurate story of how things have been going, and assess how that's gone, and use that assessment to influence intuitive guidance of actions going forward. Fuzzy, I know. Point is we're as strict or unconventional about our MMG projects as we want to be.

Cam
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Re: Axel Heyst’s Mastermind Group

Post by Cam »

I know seaconn asked about the mastermind group. Just wanted to put it out there that I'd also be interested in joining a second one. From what I'm reading they sound great.

Western Red Cedar
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Re: Axel Heyst’s Mastermind Group

Post by Western Red Cedar »

Cam wrote:
Mon Oct 10, 2022 8:29 pm
Just wanted to put it out there that I'd also be interested in joining a second one. From what I'm reading they sound great.
Hi Cam. Axel Heyst's group is still capped at 8 people and going strong. I'm not sure about the second MM group: viewtopic.php?t=12304

I believe a few more have popped up around more focused topics (FI, Ecology, Repair, Knots). I'm not sure whether those are still active or not.

Starting a new group is always an option. It really isn't a big time commitment and offers a lot of benefits IMO. If others are interested feel free to start a new thread for a third, general ERE MM group.

Cam
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Re: Axel Heyst’s Mastermind Group

Post by Cam »

WRC, Seaconn got in contact with me and I think I can join the second one. I love the idea of more focused groups too! The best part for me will be actually hearing folks' voices and not just reading text on a screen :)

AxelHeyst
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Re: Axel Heyst’s Mastermind Group

Post by AxelHeyst »

We began our Fifth Cycle this week. Our group first got together almost two years ago!

The beginning of a cycle looks like a few sessions of Intros. Three of us will raise our hands to give 15 minute introductions to our primary project(s), theme, focus, etc for the Cycle.

Once everyone who wants has given an intro, which takes two to three calls, we roll into deep dives.

The way our calls have evolved to work is that the first ten to fifteen minutes is a round of two-minute checkins: gratitude, how last fortnight went, and intent for next fortnight. Then, the remainder of the hour is the deep dive. At the end of the hour whoever wants to hang out further and chat informally is welcome to, but it's fine for people to drop off.

Typically, something comes up during the deep dive that people are interested in talking about further in the second hour. For example, in our last call, we returned to the tension between "Not doing fun things with friends because of an arbitrary budget" and "Using an arbitrary budget to increase motivation to develop the skill of doing fun things with friends that don't cost much money."

AxelHeyst
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Re: Axel Heyst’s Mastermind Group

Post by AxelHeyst »

Inspired by grundomatic's scribe role, I'm going to adopt a scribe role for this MMG for this fifth cycle. Possibly to hand it off to a volunteer for the sixth?

If the scribe role was explicitly outlined somewhere I missed it but the sense I get is that the duties of the Scribe are to be the person whose job it is to report back to the forum what's going on inside the MMG *as appropriate*, so people don't get strange ideas about what cult-like shenanigans we're up to. This releases the whole group somewhat from the pressure of not darknetting too hard, and avoids the diffusion of responsibility issue. (The danger is if the scribe does too good a job, then why would anyone participate in the forum?)

We had our first deep dive of the fifth cycle last weekend, which was preceded by three sessions of intros. I missed the previous two due to internet access issues, which I think is the first sessions I've missed? :cry:

It was my deep dive. My project for discussion was ERE fest. I gave an overview of the purpose/vision for it, explained what I thought of as my next steps, and then invited feedback. Most of my notes from that got digested into the update I just posted to the EREfest thread, so I won't reproduce them here.

One comment I'll mention, when we were discussing 'what is the purpose of this thing anyway?', is that it's just nice to hang out with people who aren't obsessed with spending money all the time.

For our book club we're studying Weinberg's An Introduction to General Systems Thinking. No discussion yet as we're still getting it checked out from libraries etc.

AxelHeyst
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Re: Axel Heyst’s Mastermind Group

Post by AxelHeyst »

@mooretrees was in the hot seat this call and she posted a summary in her journal.

AxelHeyst
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Re: Axel Heyst’s Mastermind Group

Post by AxelHeyst »

@wrc's writeup of his deep dive: viewtopic.php?p=275107#p275107

(it occurred to me that our typical format doesn't actually lend itself to the scribe function: it's really up to the person on the deep dive to take meaningful notes, and some people don't find taking notes a useful part of their process, and if they do it's up to them to post it or not. So I'll link to those who do but otherwise only attempt to scribe when we do a different format.)

AxelHeyst
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Re: Axel Heyst’s Mastermind Group

Post by AxelHeyst »

Today we had a discussion of the book Introduction to General Systems Thinking, by Weinberg. The following is a mix of my reading notes and the discussion.

I thought systems thinking was feedback loop diagrams n stuff. I think that is more appropriately systems *modeling*, which might also fall under the umbrella of systems engineering (not sure on that). This book was actually about how to understand systems, what they are, and in particular how we think about them and understanding our roles as observers of systems, which if you don't have a good understanding of that you are going to have a bad time.

At the end of the book he writes that the Systems Triumvirate is
1. Why do I see what I see?
2. Why do things change?
3. Why do things stay the same?

And that the book is only about (1), as it's foundational.

Science has revealed a complexity to the world - to reality - that it and society are not prepared to deal with. General systems thinking is an attempt to equip scientists, technologists, and citizens with the tools necessary to deal with this new level of complexity.

Systems thinking has much to do with understanding the attributes and limitations of observation. It implicitly and explicitly considers the observer as part of the system under question, because there are issues of knowing that can only be properly dealt with by inclusion of the dynamics of observation.

To say anything useful about phenomenon we typically have to constrain it, box it in, so that we can hold everything steady and change one variable at a time. Thus most of our knowledge is about things that we can constrain. But not only things that are constrainable exist! Our body of knowledge is limited to our methods of knowing, much like the drunk looking for his keys under a street lamp because that is where the light is good.

The square law of computation states that the amount of computation increases with the square of the number of equations required to describe a system. Doubling the number of equations quadruples the computer power required.

In order to compute things, then, we have to make lots of simplifying assumptions simply in order ot reduce the number of equations to a computable quantity.

Questioning simplifying assumptions is a core task of the general systems thinker.


...
Small number systems are computable with the tools of mechanics and simplifying assumptions, and large number systems are predictable with the tools of statistical analysis (where observed behavior converges on predicted behavior). Medium number systems are neither computable nor predicable.
The law of medium numbers is that large fluctuations, irregularities, and discrepancy from theory will occur regularly. Anything that can happen will happen, Murphys law, in other words.
...
Science has worked well on problems for which reductionism is a good tool. It has not worked well on problems for which reductionism is not a good tool. General Systems thinking is concerned with these problems that science cannot adroitly handle.
....
Mathematics has the look of truth because it doesn't say what it is talking about. (Bertand Russel). Maths is internally consistent, meaning, it doesn't actually make statements about real things. When we use mathematics as a tool to describe real things in various branches of inquiry (biology, physics, economics, etc) we can give the sense of truth to the subject when actually we're just using maths to make internally consistent statements about the phenomenon. The mathematics can be right while the statement is false due to various issues of constraint. (observational issues, etc)
...
Science, like any of us, is unable to cope with medium number systems, though its success with systems of its own choosing has misled many scientists and politicians into thinking of science as a way of dealing effectively with ALL systems. Sience is no more to blame for the consequences than a band saw is responsible for the consequences of its being used to trim fingernails.
....
inductive reasoning is important to the general systems thinker because a) there isn't enough time to wait around for deductive methods to bear fruit and b) in many cases its computationally impossible. The GST must be courageous enough to make a fool of themself in order to get anywhere.
A system is a way of looking at the world.
There may actually be 'real objects' out there in the world, but if there are, it is not becasue we perceive them as real. Perception responds just as well to illusion as to reality, and many of these percetpions are so deep that we are essentially powerless to unlearn them, even in illusion situations.
The GST must always be aware that they don't have access to real objects.

...
The generalized thermodynamics law: more probably states are more likely to be observed than less probable states, unless specific constraints exist to keep them from occurring.

And observational dynamics are a constraint! So:

The things we see more frequently are more frequent 1) because there is some physical reason to favor certain states or 2) because there is some mental reason.

The example given is two bridge hands, one being a straight flush or something and the other being garbage. The question is: which of the two bridge hands is more likely to be seen in a normal bridge game? The answer is they're equally likely, it's just that we value one as special and unique and we unconsciously evaluate the garbage HAND as the SET OF GARBAGE HANDS but that wasn't the question.
...



Our conversation started with the book but we went on a bunch of fun tangents, which I only managed to scribe poorly.

My favorite quote from the chat was from Daylen: "Suppose you are a rock: [something something entropy]"

If you consume too much (information) too fast you will overfit. you want to sparsify, be like the wind.

the challenge of our age is that we have too much stuff. The actual challenge is at being good at not having stuff. Having quality stuff you need. there's so much stuff you're not going to run out probably. too much food, etc, the issue is how to deal with overabundance, rather than getting stuff. but we consume so much information we struggle to deal with the abundance of material goods.

If you consume too much (information) too fast you will overfit. Maybe you want to sparsify, be like the wind rather than a rock wrt your system (WoG) design.

Our WoGs are all systems that are stable for some range of environmental and observation-entity conditions, beyond which our systems (wogs) are not stable.

Are we systems thinkers or are we systems that think? Does not everyone have a system, whether they call it that or not? Sort of like the dichotomy between being in nature and not being in nature. It's all in nature!

Systems thinking is all about limiting the state space, knowing what to expect of a system in the future. The better your expectations, the more efficiently you can interact with the systems. It's not going to tell you which states the system is going to attract towards (?), but its going to eliminate bad guesses. instead of asking whats possible, categorize the impossible transformations.

AxelHeyst
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Re: Axel Heyst’s Mastermind Group

Post by AxelHeyst »

It was @mathiverse's deep dive today - here's their takeaway.

AxelHeyst
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Re: Axel Heyst’s Mastermind Group

Post by AxelHeyst »

We're in between our sixth and seventh cycles. The core practice of our MMG is deep dives. We decided to hold off on deep dives until after EREfest, and to do a few book or topic presentations until then. Inspiration for this came from the Boogaloo mmg. Today I gave a session on the strategic theory of John Boyd, based on Frans P Osinga's book. I first read this book in 2011.

Here are some notes and excerpts from that.
Boyd, 1976, First Paragraph of Destruction and Creation wrote:To comprehend and cope with our environment we develop mental patterns or concepts of meaning. The purpose of this paper is to sketch out how we destroy and create these patterns to permit us to both shape and be shaped by a changing environment. In this sense, the discussion also literally shows why we cannot avoid this kind of activity if we intend to survive on our own terms. The activity is dialectic in nature generating both disorder and order that emerges as a changing and expanding universe of mental concepts matched to a changing and expanding universe of observed reality.
Context:

Born 1927
In Army then Air Force 1946 - 1975
1953 flew 22 combat sorties in F-86 in Korean war
1962 Industrial Engineering Degree, develops EM Theory
1966-1970 works on F-15 project
1975 Retires from active duty
1975 - 1997 works on strategic theory as a civilian
Dies 1997


He only wrote one essay; the meat of his ‘work’ was his briefings.
He gave his briefings hundreds or thousands of times, and they were very long (10+ hours).
His briefings evolved over time as he iterated his ideas.
His briefings don’t stand alone - you can’t really just read his slides. (Hence the importance of the Osinga book).
In his briefings he led the audience through a thinking process, rather than just braindumping at them.

Many people know Boyd for his OODA loop and make the mistake of thinking that's all there is to it. That's sort of like thinking that ERE = lentil and RV frugality + VTI-n-chill.

Osinga stresses that Boyd's work was the result of his conscious engagement with the scientific zeitgeist of his time; cybernetics, general systems theory, theories of scientific revolutions, postmodern epistemology, etc.

As Daylen said in our call: ~"Somebody had to apply systems thinking etc into strategic thinking; Boyd happened to be the guy who did it."

The Purpose of Strategy is to improve our ability to shape and interact with unfolding circumstances, so that we can survive on our own terms. The Central theme is interaction/isolation.

--

Orientation
Boyd thought orientation is the most important part of the OODA loop / strategic function.

“To discern what is going on we must interact in a variety of ways with our environment. We must be able to examine the world from a number of perspectives so that we can generate mental images or impressions that correspond to that world.”

IMO orientation is akin to Buffet’s latticework of mental models but with the emphasis on accurately updating those models through time based on observation and interaction with reality.

Orientation, seen as a result, represents images, views, or impressions of the world shaped by genetic heritage, cultural tradition, previous experiences, and unfolding circumstances.

“Orientation is an interactive process of many sided implicit cross referencing projections, empathies, correlations, and rejections that is shaped by and shapes the interplay of genetic heritage, cultural tradition, previous experiences and unfolding circumstances.”

To maintain interaction with the ever-changing world so as to ensure one’s ability to adapt, he asserts this is accomplished

“by an instinctive see-saw of analysis and synthesis across a variety of domains, or across competing/independent channels of information, in order to spontaneously generate new mental images or impressions that match up with an unfolding world of uncertainty and change.”

--

Maladaptive schemata (mental models) are schemata that were once adaptive but under conditions that no longer prevail. The environment has changed at a faster rate of change than the evolutionary process can accommodate.

“People using theories or systems evolved from a variety of information will find it increasingly difficult and ultimately impossible to interact with and comprehend phenomena or systems that move increasingly beyond and away from that variety - that is, they will become more and more isolated from that which they are trying to observe or deal with, unless they exploit the new variety to modify their theories/systems or create new theories/systems.” Boyd

--
Perpetual Novelty
Under unsolvable conditions of uncertainty, revel in perpetual novelty.

“If uncertainty is indeed pervasive, it is imperative for organizations to create the ability to operate comfortably in this condition; in fact, they need to embrace it and turn the capacity to their advantage by introducing uncertainty and novelty into the environment themselves.”pg103

“Novelty is produced continuously, if somewhat erratically or haphazardly. In order to thrive and grow in such a world we must match our thinking and doing, hence our orientation, with that emerging novelty. Yet, any orientation constrained by experiences before that novelty emerges introduces mismatches that confuse or disorient us. However, the analytical/synthetic process permits us to address these mismatches so that we can rematch thereby reorient our thinking and action with that novelty. Over and over this continuing whirl of re-orientation, mismatches, analysis/synthesis enables us to comprehend, cope with, and shape as well as be shaped by novelty that literally flows around and over us.”-Boyd

--
Levels of Strategy

Grand Strategic:
A unifying vision that can be used to attract the uncommitted, pump up friendly resolve, drain away adversary morale. "What is needed is a vision rooted in human nature so noble, so attractive that it not only attracts the uncommitted and magnifies the spirit and strength of its adherent, but also undermines the dedication and determination of any competitors or adversaries."

Grand Strategic: Vision (implicit leadership, storytelling).
General Strategic: Improve our Adaptability + ability to cope.
Grand Tactical: Overwhelm adversary ability to cope (focus is borking other's ooda loops)
Tactical: Rapid iteration (focus is on own ooda loop)

--
Organization Design

Structurally, Boyd saw decentralization and autonomy of modular units as key to success, because a centralized hierarchy of decision-making is slow and distorts Observation.

His idea was to preference setting broad intent, values, and organiational Purpose, at the high level, and make sure those values and intents are known through the organization. Then the small units are empowered to exploit operational realities and circumstances with initiative in order to achieve organism purpose.

This is the basis of appreciation and leadership, rather than command and control.

--

The Art of Success
Shape or influence events so that we not only magnify our spirit and strength but also influence potential adversaries as well as the uncommitted so that they are drawn toward our philosophy and are empathetic toward our success.

--
Takeaways and questions:

Uncertainty is unsolvable; don’t seek to eliminate it

Isolation / closed systems are dead

Interaction / open systems are alive

The strategic aim of any organism is to maintain freedom of action and ability to cope with unfolding circumstances;

Build and continuously update a latticework of mental models via interaction with environment and analysis7synthesis (destruction and creation
Look for mismatches between Orientation and Observation

Instead of focusing on coping with specific environmental conditions, seek to increase your general adaptability to unfolding environment (ability to ooda loop rapidly, shed maladaptive schemata, observe accurately, move quickly, etc)

Making decisions under uncertainty is the whole game here, really. It's the ability to act under uncertainty as accurately as possible. This is where the perspective of rapid looping and synthesis/analysis is so imperative: if one holds to a linear/rigid model of the world, you'll quickly become overwhelmed as the world is very fluid.

If, however, you expect the world to unfold rapidly through time, you never are grasping after some "arrival" state of perfect Planning and strategy, and you become comfortable with the conceptual spiral - you understand that the conceptual spiral *is the path,* and you live comfortably there, continually improving your ability to act/react.

This is critical because *not becoming overwhelmed*, or maintaining your ability to cope, is key to survival. Dancing seems an excellent metaphor. The aim is to keep dancing, and to draw delight from the creativity and spontaneity of the moves.

Boyd was very neo-Darwinian, even Hobbesian in his perspective on the human condition. How would he incorporate/analyse/synthesize critiques of the neo-Darwinian perspective?

What specific evolutions in the scientific zeitgeist ought to be folded in to/through his work?

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Re: Axel Heyst’s Mastermind Group

Post by AxelHeyst »

Our last call was mooretrees’ intro. She asked for more accountability this cycle, and this spawned a discussion generally about how we run the MMG. We agreed to these tweaks:

.We’re back to the checkin format of “Gratitude, what I did last two sweek wrt my mmg proj, what I plan to do in the next two weeks.” We’d drifted away from that to a more general update.
.Agreed to be more consistent with our midweek checkins.
.Are starting a parallel play experiment. Once a week we come up with a time to work on whatever ere projects we want to in a focused way. I thought we’d have a video call thing but not talk, but it might turn out that we just coordinate via Signal.
.The above is all opt in. Half of us want the more structured accountability stuff, the other half don’t find that sort of thing useful or necessary so they aren’t doing it. They’re helping to keep us opt-inners accountable, though.

Not related to the above tweaks, our next call is my deep dive and we’ve got two guests from the other MMG sitting in to check out our vibe.

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Re: Axel Heyst’s Mastermind Group

Post by grundomatic »

So, we crashed @AxelHeyst's MMG meeting, hoping to steal the recipe for MMG and ERE success. What we found was a group and meeting exactly as described here in this thread, and pretty similar to our own, which shouldn't be surprising as this was the model. Rather than specific things to implement, the takeaways for me were broad, general, and probably obvious to most.

First, a group can take on the "personality" of the leader. This doesn't have to even be the founder, this MMG reported meetings with very different feel and results based just on who is in the "hot seat".

Second, you get out what you put in. Again, I know this should be obvious. The members of the MMG are making progress in their lives because they are putting in the work. There is no secret sauce for @AH to ladle onto your head for ERE success. The MMG provides a sounding board, some amount of accountability, and sometimes therapy (I even got to share my insecurities), but ultimately it's up to you to get your shit together.

Third, there is so much space in the ERE sphere for innovation and exploration. Three years ago, ERE Mastermind Groups didn't exist, and now they do. It couldn't have happened without the forum being cultivated first. I'm excited to see what happens next, but it's up to me, and whoever else decides to build the thing that they want to exist.

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