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Meta, Principles

REV: 2020-06-21

Versatile ideas to make decisions correctly and quickly in any field of work.


Prioritize safety first. People tend to neglect and underprepare for safety until they (or those they care about) are seriously harmed. It is easy to be lulled into a false sense of security.

Be fully consistent with safe behaviors and procedures. Do not let fickle convenience tempt dangerous exceptions that invite accidents.

Balance the preparation of proactive (prevention) and reactive (cure) solutions. Avoid unnecessary risks and reduce necessary risks.

Resources are limited. Budget wisely to defend against the most significant dangers and implement the most cost-efficient solutions.

Build a habit of identifying immediate and upcoming hazards and risks. Danger-spotting intuition is a key defense during distracted activities.


Prefer decisions with reversible consequences.

You will make mistakes. When you make a serious mistake, you need to be able to take it back.

Resilient Value

Make lasting decisions that generate useful value for a long time even when plans change, environments evolve, and exceptions emerge. When the future unravels in unexpected ways, you want your purchased resources, learned knowledge, and produced work to stay relevant.

Rational Awareness

Keep up your conscious intensity and logical rigor.

Routinely consider what you are doing and why you are doing it.


Always be seeking a better outcome.

Adopt a common process to efficiently find the best areas for improvement across multiple situations.

Specify key metrics to help distinguish upgrades from downgrades. Think deeper about each metric, simulating real world consequences instead of assigning simple weights of relative importance. Be sure to consider special factors that are too dangerous to miss or ignore.

Design solutions to be convenient (ex. road signs) and universal (ex. red for stop/danger)

Prefer structural solutions (ex. mandatory checklist) over personal solutions (ex. verbal reminder).

Prefer automatic solutions (ex. smoke alarm) over manual solutions (ex. check periodically for a fire).


Finish what you start and start only what you will finish.

Know what is and is not worth doing; starting, continuing, finishing.

Stop and reconsider when the value of completion becomes unclear.

The scope of completion ranges from steps and tasks to projects and plans.

Completion precedes the efficient reorganization of the mindspace and workspace, bringing closure to old whirlpools.

Balanced Interpretation

Stay sharp enough to cut through weak ideas, yet soft enough to absorb unfamiliar truths.

Accept your immediate knowledge as ever-imperfect in complex ways.

Self Control

Be able to actually do what you know is the best path.

You are not in control if you consistently fail to perform your best known course of action.

Prepare the flow of information to meet the 3 requirements of conscious, rational action:

  • Awareness (to consider the action, ex. alarm clock reminds you to do something important)
  • Rational Confidence (to logically determine the best action)
  • Willpower (to actually perform the best known course of action)

Overcome the first-try confidence barrier and the first-step inconvenience bias.

Directional Clarity

Be clear about your ultimate objectives.

Balance progress between short-term and long-term goals.

Stay flexible and avoid over-committing your resources. You want to be able to pivot your goals based on new information.

Time Efficiency

Perform every task with quality and speed, striving to do the best you can with the time you have.

Time efficiency is not only about the efficiency of a single task but also about the consistency of efficient performance, the prioritization of task timings, and the selection of necessary tasks. In other words, you must perform your current task efficiently, perform all upcoming tasks efficiently, perform the right tasks at the right times in the right order, and plan for the most important tasks that you can complete within your time constraints.

Useful Learning

Learn with purpose, towards some fundamental combination of mental satisfaction and valuable action. Only you can decide which beliefs you are happy to hold or driven to refine.

Pursue the truth if you want to accurately translate your intentions and decisions into actions and real world consequences. The truth helps you get what you want from reality, if what you want from reality requires the truth.

Fundamental Understanding

Master the basics. Deep knowledge is rooted in the truest understanding of the most elementary ideas.

Incremental Improvement

Learn with the pragmatic perspective of growing in small steps.

Comfortable Expertise

Master skills enough to perform superbly with ease.

Scientific Intuition

Learn ideas deeply enough to be able to think about their conceptual and numerical approximations naturally.

Real-Time Pressure

Develop skills under continuous time constraints and complex multi-factor scenarios.

Proportional Consideration

Spend more time and request more feedback on more important decisions.

Know when to be decisive and when to be cautious.

Concrete Simulation

Plan for the future by simulating specific short-term and long-term situations. Abstract ideas tend to oversimplify the real world and cloud judgment around critical initiatives.

True Causality

Know what truly causes what.

Consider the exponential gaps in causal predictions. Seemingly small decisions can have big consequences and seemingly big decisions can have small consequences.

Direct Evaluation

See things for what they actually are.

Total Preparation

Foresee all possibilities.

Mitigate the major risks.

React to unexpected events with versatile contingency plans. Recall your prepared plans as the situation evolves.

Complete Planning

Plan beyond the moment and forecast the full schedule of every step required to accomplish a major goal. A truly complete plan is a continuous line of real action mapped to every second of the present and future.

Continuous Risk

Stay vigilant, as something can go wrong at any time. Risk is a persistent function of imperfect observation, imperfect logic, and inaccessible information.

Comparative Clarity

Understand your options by exploring alternatives.

Sometimes it is easier to determine the better of two than the quality of one.


Try one before committing to more.


Do many at once.

Leverage economies of scale and divide fixed costs by many units produced.

Accomplish many goals in one smooth sequence.

Clear Expectations

Communicate what you want.

Plan and agree to what should happen when something goes wrong, before something goes wrong.

First-Time Excellence

Do it right the first time.

Avoid the frustration and sunk cost of incurring even a single major problem.

Regular Action

Build habits around important tasks.

Convenient Action

Set up your tasks to be easier to do and they are more likely to get done.

Steady Action

Move cautiously to avoid unintended injuries and damage.

Move slowly at first to signal your action to others for a noticeable timeframe.

Timed Action

Act at the right time and in the right order.

Perfect Action

Strive to take the perfect action that equals the best possible life you can realistically experience from this moment onwards.

Question every allocation of your time and resources against what you truly want to accomplish in life. Pick your battles.

Do what unmistakably needs to be done. Consider the do-it-now heuristic for simple, quick, and certain tasks.

Power of One

One is simple:

  • One place to store and find things.
  • One goal to prioritize.
  • One dependable tool to use and maintain.
  • One detail to remember.
  • One clear plan to perform without confusion.
  • One good option to make an unmistakably good decision.

Power of Two

Two is reliable.

The value of using two.

  • When the first fails, the second continues to function while the problem with the first is detected and resolved.
  • When the first exceeds capacity, the second adds immediate capacity while extra capacity is prepared for the future as necessary.

The value of using one, storing one.

  • When the first fails to a short-term event that affects all in use, the second provides recovery with low downtime.

Power of Three

Three is versatile:

  • The first development is conservatively sparse. The second development is ambitiously bloated. The third development is well-balanced. (Third System Effect)
  • Two people can sleep while one person watches (Overwatch Efficiency)
  • One person can work while two people watch (Overwatch Redundancy)

Possibility Over Probability

When the stakes are high, think through normal and abnormal possibilities.

Key Element Organization

Key tasks can be defined and prioritized in a checklist.

Key limits can be defined and cross-examined in a constraint list.

Key design choices can be defined and referenced in a central document.


Create things for use.

Complete Use

Use products for their full effective life.