Dating Advice, Fun, and Cults
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More Likely to Marry Well
Dating is hard, but deciding when to settle down is even harder. How do you know you've found the best partner? If you marry too early, you might be foregoing the chance of a perfect match. However if you wait too long, you might be stuck marrying whoever is available and end up with someone mediocre.
Most of us just shrug and hope for the best. Mathematicians, no strangers to being single themselves, instead did some math stuff and came up with the ideal strategy.
The first step is to estimate how many lifetime suitors you'll have. If you're very shy this number might be lower than if you're very charismatic. But let's assume that the average person could have 8 semi-serious relationships if they dated their entire life.
Here's the strategy: reject outright the first 36.8% of people you date. After that, marry anyone you date that's better than anyone you've dated before.
So for the average person, you would date 3 people seriously but refuse to marry them, regardless of how good the match is. Then you marry the first person you date that's better than anyone else you've dated previously.
Here's the full explanation for why this works, but the basic idea is simple enough even if you have a math phobia. A single person needs some kind of formula to balance the risk of stopping dating too soon and stopping dating too late. The secret to getting that formula revolves around the mathematical constant "e", and that ends up giving you 36.8%.
That said, 36.8% is the number of people to pass on if, and only if, you definitely want to get married. If you'd prefer being single to marrying a suboptimal candidate, then you actually ought to reject the first 60.7% of suitors. Since you're ok to be end up single, you should take more time to review more candidates and ensure you're getting the best possible option.
On the other hand, sometimes math is stupid. I married the first girl I seriously dated and am ridiculously happy with her 10 years into our relationship. Your mileage may vary.
But if you're single, dating around, and unsure whether or not to settle down or move on, hopefully the math nerds can help make your decision a bit easier.
More Likely to Have Fun
Here's the secret to having more fun: broaden your definition of what "fun" is.
Jesse Evers points out that there are actually 3 different types of fun:
- Type 1 Fun: Fun in the moment.
- Classic idea of what's fun.
- Examples: going to parties, hanging out with friends, traveling.
- Type 2 Fun: Fun in hindsight.
- Things that are difficult in the moment, but give you a sense of accomplishment in retrospect.
- Examples: solving a complicated problem at work, completing a taxing workout, reading a book about the Holocaust.
- Type 3 Fun: Fun when telling the story.
- Things that are difficult in the moment, and also kind of suck in hindsight. But they are the source of entertaining stories.
- Examples: losing a lot of money gambling, botching a meal, dealing with a minor crisis.
As Jesse says, "Type 1 fun makes you happy now, Type 2 fun makes you happy later, and Type 3 fun expands what you think of as Type 2 fun."
The upshot: once you accept this scheme, you can reframe your experience in the moment and enjoy it more. If you appreciate that you'll feel happy about your difficult work project later on, you're more likely to finish it and find a smile on your face while doing so. Just saying to yourself "This is type 2 fun" can be really helpful.
Of course, some situations are not fun in any sense (e.g. the passing of a loved one). I'm not trying to be a self-help guru telling you that everything is fun in life.
But I genuinely believe if you can reframe some difficult experiences as Type 2 or 3 Fun, you'll be a happier person.
More Curious about Cults
What happened to all the cults?
When I was a kid, it felt like cults were in the news and culture all the time. There was a real fear that, if you weren't careful, you might end up getting sucked into a cult yourself. But these days the only cults you hear about are in Netflix specials.
It's very difficult to quantify this decline in cults, but here's one overview that found cults are declining rapidly and that we have maybe 20% of the cults we once had.
There are a number of explanations, such as the internet giving people the ability to fact check cults before they join. But in my reading, I was surprised to see that 2 prominent thinkers actually feel like the decline in cults is a bad thing.
Ross Douthat says cults are disappearing because religion just doesn't matter as much anymore. Counter-intuitively, Douthat thinks that mainstream religious people like him should want more cults. A wild fringe of religious cults means that there is a healthy religious center in the mainstream culture. When religion is less important to people generally, there are fewer opportunities for cults specifically to develop.
Peter Thiel goes a different direction. He thinks we have fewer cults because the human spirit is diminishing. To him, life is better when people think there are major secrets to be uncovered and better ways of living to be tried out. The lack of cults means humans are more complacent than ever before.
Who would have guessed there are pro-cult arguments?
"When you counsel someone, you should appear to be reminding him of something he had forgotten, not of the light he was unable to see."- Baltasar Gracian
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