Part of my Knowledge Repository.
Trying versus winning
“You have been asking what you could do in the great events that are now stirring, and have found that you could do nothing. But that is because your suffering has caused you to phrase the question in the wrong way... Instead of asking what you could do, you ought to have been asking what needs to be done.” —Steven Brust, The Paths of the Dead
- When you ask “What can I do?”, you’re trying to do your best. Your best is whatever you can do without the slightest inconvenience. It is whatever you can do with the money in your pocket, minus whatever you need for your accustomed lunch. What you can do with those resources, may not give you very good odds of winning.
- But what needs to be done? Maybe what needs to be done requires three times your life savings, and you must produce it or fail.
- So trying to have “maximized your probability of success”—as opposed to trying to succeed—is a far lesser barrier. You can have "maximized your probability of success" using only the money in your pocket, so long as you don't demand actually winning.
- Only when you want, above all else, to win will you put in the effort to actually maximise the probability of a successful outcome.
- But if all you want is to “maximise the probability of success using available resources", then that's the easiest thing in the world to convince yourself you've done. The very first plan you hit upon, will serve quite well as “maximising”—if necessary, you can generate an inferior alternative to prove its optimality. Any tiny resource that you care to put in, will be what is “available”.