UP is designed around a number of life principles. Many overlap so consider this a casual taxonomy.
Grow your ability to grow. Think recursive self-development. Grow exponentially where you can, linearly everywhere else. Embrace cumulative advantage.
Broadly speaking, aim to maximize the number of your wellbeing adjusted life years (WALYs). It is the most important metric for most people, most of the time.
Always strive to understand reality as it is, not as you want it to be. You will get much further in life if you use reality as your north star.
Human beings are complex adaptive systems made up of many interacting factors. Adjusting one part may not reliably cause a change in another part.
Measure just about everything meaningful to you and track your progress over time. Don’t guess whether a program, tool or course worked or not.
To grow effectively, start with a change hypothesis and rapidly design and test an intervention. Then improve the intervention and retest it until something works.
It’s helpful to begin from the broad evolutionary perspective that humans are, in essence, hairless apes. It makes it easier to understand why we do what we do.
Develop a full taxonomy of your life and upgrade every area you choose. Depending on how you see the world, there may be ~40 foundational areas you could improve.
You are not just “you”. At any given time you have several psychological subagents that are cooperating or fighting with each other. Design for all of your subagents.
“You” are a synthesis of your biological substrate (your body and mind) and your non-biological substrate (e.g., computer, phone, clothes, brand, etc.).
“You” are a composite of your past, present, and future selves. Due to buggy temporal discounting, you reliably forget about your other temporal selves.
To think better, build a digital exocortex (external brain) that collects what you know and helps you get you what you want. It is the digital version of “you”.
First determine your terminal and instrumental values. Everything you do in life stems from what you consider valuable. Deeply introspect, research, and clarify.
Life is a series of bets. Generally speaking, if you bet on lottery tickets, you’ll lose. If you bet on low-cost index funds, you’ll win. Always at least consider expected value.
Essentially no one does this, but it’s best to focus on what matters most first (i.e., usually your highest expected value work). Simple to understand, but hard to do.
Two brains are better than one. Five are better than two. The more computational power you have, the more strategic your decisions will likely be.
Return on Investment
Everything you do has a return on investment. Try to think like a venture capitalist trying to maximize return on investment of a portfolio of life investments.
Think as a physicist might: from as foundational of a level as possible. Be careful with assumptions and heuristics. Think more slow than fast.
At some point the marginal cost of an action you take will often exceed the marginal benefit. Think on the margin so you make smarter trade-off decisions.
The world is more grayscale than black or white. Learning how to think in probabilities (X is Y% likely to happen) lets you navigate reality far more effectively.
Build a quantitative model to intelligently allocate your resources to acquire what you value most. You can’t easily do this math or remember the conclusions in your head.
Always keep in mind your counterfactuals–what would have happened if you did or didn’t do something. Was it the seminar that helped you succeed or just you?
Value of Information
How much would you pay to know something before making a decision? If that amount is less than the cost of doing the research, you may want to do the research.
Wherever possible, default to the scientific literature on what works in changing lives and what doesn’t. Systematic reviews and meta-analyses are the gold standard.
You don’t know how to optimally upgrade yourself any more than you know what dark energy is. Expect to be wrong and fail often. Self-compassion is key.
Don’t let systemic forces you’re mostly unaware of shape the majority of your life outcomes. “Live deliberately.” -Henry David Thoreau
Work to enhance the percentage of your discretionary resources that you allocate on a moment-to-moment basis toward achieving your highest values.
Take a lifelong frame. Strategically allocate your 700,000 hours and millions in lifetime earnings and other assets into what you value most.
Become obsessed with plans. Yes, they often fail. But no, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do them. You should just do them better. “Failing to plan is planning to fail.”
You’re a function of your environment. Your home, workplace, vehicle, city, social dynamics, etc. all profoundly influence you. Focus on them to upgrade yourself.
Figure out what actually motivates you. Maybe pay yourself when you achieve your goals. Or donate to an organization you hate if you don’t.
If there’s a way to use a technology to advance your goals, do that first. Mindfully integrate as much as possible with the right technologies for you.
Deliberately and systematically try to achieve great things for yourself and the world. Work hard to leave a legacy that would make your descendants proud.
Make bets on yourself by predicting your plausible future outcomes. Then regularly update these predictions as you execute your plans and learn from reality.
Every great entrepreneur, investor, scientist, engineer, celebrity, and athlete had a team. You deserve a team 100% dedicated to your goals. Don’t go at life alone.
Four hands are better than two. Ten are better than four. Raw hours, intelligently distributed to the right tasks at the right time in the right way feels like magic.
Normally people set goals, halfheartedly pursue them, and then forget about them. Instead, you should either (1) succeed or (2) pick better goals. Never forget.
Hold yourself to the highest standards of integrity. If you say you’re going to do something, do it. If you fail to do it, quickly apologize and fix it. Full ownership.
You have to diligently practice mental, physical, and emotional skills. Especially the parts you’re bad at. If your practice isn’t hard, you’re probably not doing it right.
When executing, aim to move extremely fast. Speed means more experiments, more insights, and more success. Eliminate all bottlenecks or points of friction.
Some people are better at X than Y. Generally speaking, distribute your workload so that people better at X do X and not Y. Collectively, you all win.
Be curious about yourself, others, and the world. Explore mindfully and persistently. You will never know everything that’s useful to know, but you can try.
You can only learn so much on your own. With a team you have more brainpower scanning the world to discover new and better ways to help you achieve your goals.
Everyone learns differently. Determine how you best learn (and remember) and then customize your lessons directly for you. No friction, no waste.
Just In Time Learning
Learning everything you need to know to optimally upgrade yourself is daunting. Instead of learning it all upfront, learn what you need to know when you need it.
Use chunking, spaced repetition, rapid testing, and other techniques to quickly learn and remember the concepts most relevant to your growth.
A surprisingly large portion of what you believe to be true is false. Unlearn whatever you can notice inside your head that’s unsubstantiated. Ask others to help.
These principles pertain to UP as a program.
We co-create an UP with a client. It’s a collaboration from beginning to end. We’re always deeply honored to be a part of someone’s life through an UP.
Each UP is a new experimental intervention. We make testable predictions, take baseline and follow-up measurements, and confirm or disconfirm our hypotheses.
UP is entirely customized based on your values, goals, personality, and unique circumstances. No two UPs are exactly alike. You’re not generic and neither is UP.
We’re always improving–we will never be done. We regularly incorporate the latest peer-reviewed research, DIY experiments, and macrotrends into an UP.
It’s your life, not anyone else’s. NDAs, restricted file access, and de-identifying data are among a few of the many precautions we take to ensure your privacy.
UP maximizes both your direct (e.g., fitness, relationships, happiness) and system-level (e.g., agency, focus, strategy) growth. Everything is interconnected.
These principles pertain to Upgradable as a company.
We’re a social enterprise that puts purpose before profits. Ethics matter to us. We only work with clients who intend to do substantial amounts of good for the world.
We practice open science. We try to make every step of our work as transparent as possible. We invite you to “check our math” and decide for yourself if what we do works.
We’re audacious enough to attempt a radically different approach to figuring out what a life well lived might look like in the 21st century. Wish us luck.