DESIGN PRINCIPLES

A number of general principles or rules of thumb guide UP.

  1. UP is designed around the individual’s unique situation, which can radically vary. Individual differences are substantial across different ages, geographies, cultures, etc. We avoid generic prescriptions.
  2. We often design an UP around the analogy of a fast-growing Y Combinator startup or an aspiring Olympic multi-gold medalist. This helps shape the intensity and metrics-focus of UP. The client is the entrepreneur or athlete and UP serves as the adviser or coach. Or, in deeper engagements, UP is the co-founder or training partner.
  3. We often use the analogy of a brain as a computer with a CPU (executive functioning), storage space (long-term memory), RAM (working memory), electricity (calorie-rich blood), and buggy or well-written software (beliefs). This helps us dispassionately look at the client and focus on optimizations more objectively.
  4. Every client we work with is an experimental intervention designed for maximum positive outcomes. We generally make testable predictions, take baseline and follow-up measurements, and expect to disconfirm our original hypotheses (i.e., we’ll be wrong often).
  5. We practice lean science. We start with an initial hypothesis and then we rapidly design and execute the intervention to test it. We repeatedly make new hypotheses and test those. The aim is effectiveness, not publications.
  6. We practice open science. We work to make every step of our research as transparent as possible and we’re deeply open to feedback about how we can improve. As we publish data, we invite you to “check our math” and confirm for yourself that what we do is meaningful.
  7. UP is always improving. It will never be done or perfect. We keep a pulse on the latest peer-reviewed research, DIY experiments, and macrotrends and regularly incorporate new findings into our work.
  8. In practice UP often focuses on creating object-level immediate impact (e.g., fitness, finances, relationships) with a secondary aim to catalyze metagrowth secondary effects (e.g, strategy, agency, focus). In order to do meta-level work effectively, many people first need object-level problems to tackle. They also need significantly more control over their resource allocation, especially their attention, time, energy, money, and other resources. UP aims to improve them both.
  9. UP is primarily based on research in positive psychology, social psychology, and behavioral economics. We also draw from cognitive psychology, evolutionary psychology, organizational psychology, and developmental psychology, among many others. We approach change from a complex systems perspective, which recognizes that human beings are made up of many interacting factors.