I feel like I was able to create a role that played to my strengths, and I feel excited about the expected value of my career.
I care a lot about my work.
I really like my colleagues.
It can be stressful. I feel like I’m working on important things, and care a lot about how they go. When things don’t go well or there’s something time-sensitive and important to get right, it can feel stressful. This might be particularly related to my role (I handle risky situations a lot).
It can be hard to take my brain off of work. I’m a lot better than I used to be, but it’s a concerted effort I have to make. (e.g. my partner will remind me not to look at my work computer, I’ve uninstalled my work slack from my phone)
I have a lot of “life shit” that has happened (chronic health issues, I’m accident-prone, my mom died). In addition, my role can be inherently stressful sometimes (I do some risk mitigation work). CEA has been amazingly supportive. CEA has helped me figure out a schedule that feels sustainable and part of a thriving life for me. CEA has helped me orient towards my “life shit” in much healthier and constructive ways. I now have an automatic reminder (or “TAP”) installed to talk to our people ops person whenever I feel angsty or stressed, or uncomfortable. She’s so good at helping me identify what’s going on and helping me figure out what to do about it.
What Amy said above! I’ve also been doing some thinking about how to improve the community’s epistemics in a more targeted way. As part of this, I conducted a small test run of a project that I hope will help (the “EA Librarian” project mentioned in Max’s link). I’ve also developed a few other ideas (e.g., a coaching program). Unfortunately, the work here has been pretty limited so far due to capacity constraints. Right now, I’m focusing on trying to hire to add more capacity. I’ve also been working on my project management skills to try to increase my ability to push things forward in this space.
I love this post. Thanks so much for sharing.
I’m very excited for this!
Thanks so much for writing this! Added a couple to my “to read” list.
Thanks for the links!
I think my professional and social spaces at this time both made this feeling worse (because others felt this too and there was feeding on each other’s angst cycle) and enabled me to get out of it/provided a healthy path forward (because others had navigated this before and gave me thoughtful and insightful advice, and also supported me as I made steps in this direction). I also think it’s a broader dynamic than my personal professional and social spaces—I was mostly within EA at this time, but I’ve seen this dynamic play out in a lot of other “do-gooder” friends from college who were never involved at all with EA.
Thanks! This is an interesting point, and I’ll mull on it.
Yay! Hope it helps them
Thanks for the link! I’m adding it to my to listen to list :)
A few rambly reactions/thoughts in response to your message in case they are helpful:
I wonder if doing some experiments here would be useful. e.g. do you seem to have more impact if you assess your impact/usefulness daily, weekly, monthly, yearly? (or whatever intervals feel worth a test to you) What happens if you experiment with just leaning into your interests (rather than usefulness)? Seems worth trying some things out and then taking time to reflect on how they went. I’ve benefited a lot from experimentation of this form.
FWIW I find assessing my impact more than a couple of times a year to be quite stressful and not very helpful (often a distraction from actually doing things). Interestingly and perhaps counterintuitively, I find prioritizing based on expected value to be useful in my role daily. Somehow the frame of prioritization enables me to make those trade-offs without kicking up this sort of desperation hamster wheel/stress cycle. I wonder if trying on different frames could be useful for you too? Prioritization depersonalizes it a bit for me in a useful way.
[Apologies for the rambly nature of this response]Thanks Ozzie, I agree with your point here. I don’t think this is essential for everyone and I agree it can lead to or be indicative of some weird biased mental move.
A couple of clarifications/mini-rambles on what I mean (but I think what I mean is a much less interesting than a useful discussion about what is helpful to people and what the implications and pros and cons of different views are):
I agree that the value I can give to others is a lot more in expectation than the value of my life on its own.
My career and donation decisions are mostly based on utilitarian reasoning (or at least that’s what I intend). Not all of my life is though (there’s a future post on this topic brewing in my mind—something about a portfolio approach to life).
[super confused on this] I think sometimes acting as if I believe more of a virtue ethics-y/deontological thing in some day to day decisions, particularly around personal life/happiness might be better as measured/defined by utilitarianism lights? Anyways, something in the vague direction of this argument feels true for me with optimizing for my own happiness. I’m confused about this though, and depending on the day might respond very differently if asked about it.
I think the main underlying point I was trying to make is more along the lines of the latter thing Ozzie said (with one slight edit, in bold) “actually, optimizing for my own happiness more than I had been is the optimal way of achieving a more universally good outcome”.
I probably should have worded that point differently? I’m not positive though—I wrote the initial phrase in question for the Nicole of a few years ago who had literally forgotten that she, too, counts and has value. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it felt like a very important realization to me. I had actually forgotten and that forgetting had lots of subtle impacts on my emotional well-being and intellectual resiliency that were quite bad.
+1. I also think that the chilling effect can extend to people’s thoughts, i.e., limiting what people even let themselves think let alone write.
EDIT: The EA Meta Fund and Long-Term Future Fund deadline is now 12 June, as announced elsewhere.
Unfortunately, I don’t know the identity of the anonymous donor myself, so I can’t speak to their plans for 2020 and beyond.
The most relevant question might be: if EA Grants is going to collapse into EA Funds, what would that mean in terms of funding needs for EA Funds? EA Funds grew something like 30% last year. From 2018-2019, Funds grew by $1.3M (and growth was concentrated in the Meta, Long Term Future, and Animal Welfare Funds, all of which make grants to individuals). If this growth rate remained steady through 2020, we would expect the ‘funding gap’ created by EA Grants (at the historical level of Grants funding, under $1M per year) to be covered by organic growth in EA Funds. However, if the number of strong grant opportunities also continues to increase, organic growth could still leave a similar proportion of strong opportunities going unfunded. In that case, I’d encourage Fund teams to make that known and fundraise accordingly. Of course, it’s hard to predict how much the size of the total pool of opportunities will increase in 2020 and beyond.
I feel very uncertain. I wasn’t very involved with funding individuals and that ecosystem before taking on EA Grants, so it’s hard for me to speak to the changes over time.
I decided to mostly not donate this year, and instead save for future donations. Because of my role at CEA and the fact that I might not be doing as much grantmaking in the future (see “Update on CEA’s EA Grants Program”), I think it’s reasonably likely I’ll come across some small grantmaking opportunities that otherwise might not be funded. I want the resources available to be opportunistic. If I don’t come across any opportunities this year, I think I should reassess my donation plans.
I also cut down my allocation this year in order to cover some health expenses. I have a chronic illness and am doing a big health push right now, including seeing a doctor not covered by health insurance. I strongly think that people should take care of their health (physical and mental), so wanted to explicitly mention that here. My mom also passed away so I am allocating more money towards therapy and grief processing support, which I similarly endorse for others in this position.
We are still happy to help with hiring and to consider helping to fund the role if there’s enough general funding. We haven’t received new info from Greg about whether there is enough general funding that it’s worth moving forward hiring, so we’re currently on standby.
Thanks for the question! My exact role is still being nailed down, but as an example, I’m likely to work on things related to risk mitigation. E.g. coordinating advice on how to give a talk to foreign government officials. Another consideration that’s related to staff capacity and is an input into this decision, is the importance of narrowing down CEA’s scope to allow more focus for the organization.