The inner citadel and principle of robust decision-making

When I talked about optimization in real-life decision-making in a previous post, I left out an essential aspect of the decision-making process: the robustness of decision-making.

The principle of robustness is not just about strategically maximizing a particular utility. It’s about prioritizing our long-term well-being over the obsession for more for more’s sake. It is about leaving margins and rooms as buffers for our physical and mental health; it’s about putting aside savings for the rainy days.

I love the metaphor of inner citadel used to describe the meditation practice of Marcus Aurelius. To me, that’s the perfect metaphor for the practices and techniques of building our mental toughness to withstand life and beyond. We can learn to realize annoying people are going to be annoying. What’s more important, we can learn from our experiences to trust that we can design our lives such that what matters to us will not be substantially harmed, and we can recover and become even stronger.

To sum up so far:

  • Accept and embrace the mishaps and annoying people, harvest the energy to come back stronger. Most precious are the experiences and information we gained.
  • Realize that we are not powerless, that we have room and buffer inside us, and friends and family that love and support us. We will adapt and overcome what seems to be overwhelming at the moment.

Of course, robustness is more than just that. In fact, I make a living these days researching algorithmic robustness, on which I will elaborate more in the future. But for now, catch a breath: you are already doing better than a moment ago. When shit hits the fan, you know you will still be okay because you have built your inner citadel.

Written on August 22, 2021