Bet Your Life: Notes

The essay Bet Your Life took over three months to become what it is now, which is not to suggest it is refined, but rather, the most restless topic I have written on. When I write, I rewrite, but never before have so many words changed over so many times. There are many many important points I wanted to make, but omitted in the interest of attempting coherence in a single essay.

This post serves as a collection of those points, and also helpful feedback I’ve received outside of Thought Repair, which may or may not serve the basis of future work.

Throughout this post, words in italics, such as reality and doubt reference the use and definition of those words in the original essay. This applies to bet as well, though I don’t italicize it. I probably should.


Losing a bet is not always your fault.

Roommate: Often, things outside your control will impact outcomes in your life.

Me: The essay is framed strongly in terms of what is in your control (locus of control), because I bet that more people are stuck thinking they have little control, than in delusions of absolute control. The term reality is meant to encompass forces beyond your control. What is out of your control is most helpful if you engage it fully and fearlessly. Therefore, reality is the object of your doubts, which you should be curious about, rather than fear.

ACT and Relational Framework Theory

Therapist: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a newer form of cognitive-behavioral therapy is about “mindfulness and values-driven living and how language creates our problems… rooted in functional contextualism and relational frame theory.”

Me: Definitely. To go a bit beyond the essay, the Bet framework diverges in that it’s purpose is to orient our experiences in terms of the unknown, and to provide a way of engaging the unknown. Whereas therapies attempt to account for personal maladaptive behavior (however defined), this is a framework for pushing you beyond normative and adaptive behavior, to your best self. Theoretically, it is an effort to make the scientific method more programmatic, and personal akin to scientism (but not Scientology).

What’s the Theory?

Philosopher of Science: Theories are not all equal, and there are three flavors (Nettle, 2018). Newtonian theories make measurable predictions given specific properties, and can be clearly supported or falsified. Recipe theories predict that some properties affect other properties of life, but are less clear about what evidence falsifies the theory. No one cares about wallet-purse theories. What kind of theory is yours?

Me: The Bet framework is more like a recipe theory. It is a solution I am proposing to a social problem. I’ve focused more on improving the solution than naming the implied theory, but I’ll take a little stab at it here. It would be something like a Recipe for making your own Newtonian theory. Specifically, it states the importance of committing something observable that you value, to some goal you have that you cannot easily observe or know. If you keep doing this, you are more likely to succeed, and when you don’t succeed (i.e. lose a bet), you are more likely to improve what ‘making your life better’ means. Though most people might start out with more of a recipe idea of their own success, a Bet requires a clear win or lose — something more Newtonian, and the framework encourages you to continually improve your betting, or, continually make it more Newtonian.

If I may, the Bet is an improvement on a meta-theory that underlies the theories Nettle comments on. All those theories are subject to the scientific method. The scientific method imposes a relationship between hypothesis and data. It suggests that you update your hypothesis based on data, then go collect new data based on your updated hypothesis. But the scientific method offers little advice on how you should update your hypothesis. The bet says put money on it, so that you’re incentivized to try your best. Your life actions imply a hypotheses, whether you care to state them or not. The bet is a way to get you to care, and then do a decent job of improving them.

Later, I will do some sketching of the Newtonian recipe for Newtonian theories. All I can tell you right now, is that food and sleep will likely play starring roles.


Here are extensions of the Bet, some of which may become essays of their own.

Social betting

You should be your own best critic, but you can’t see everything. Welcome others’ doubts of your beliefs. Seek them out and embrace them. A rigorous practice of taking criticism leads to a healthy (reduced) ego, and is a core part of the school.

Betting words

Every word is a claim about the world, and that claim has some degree of truth, and some degree of relevance. Our dreams are made of words, but so are all the other things in our lives that depend on them. What words do you choose to say? Are these the best words to move you forward in your bets? What words do you hold onto? Saying and holding onto words take up time.

Opportunity cost

Our lives are finite. The best bet is that each of us will die. Every minute not spent on our best life is a minute wasted.

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