Satisficers vs. Optimizers

I just finished Fooled by Randomness by Taleb, what a great book. In the last chapter, he compares satisficers and optimizers: suppose you’re having dinner with a friend who knows exactly when his train leaves. He optimizes his dinner, hurrying away from the table just before his train is about to depart. Your friend is an optimizer.

I am aspiring to be more of a satisficer: I don’t know when my train will leave. When I need to travel somewhere, I walk or cycle to the station and check the tables to see when it leaves. This means I hardly ever miss a train: there’s nothing to miss!

Instead of planning weeks ahead and optimize my time to see as many people as possible, I’ve now got a lazier approach: I’ll just call people when I feel like meeting them.

I’m also not trying to optimize my working time: I either work or play, not both at the same time. I’m trying not to confuse the two (which still happens often, watching YouTube videos or reading Hacker News while compiling). However, I’m not trying to work 8 hours a day. Some days I work more, most days I work less, depending on what I feel like. Accepting that is still hard for me, I was (unconsciously) drilled with the idea that you have to work 40+ hours a week to be a worthy person.

There are other aspects of life where I am still a bit of an optimizer, such as running fast. However, the training is very satisfactory for me, and doesn’t feel like optimizing: it feels very playful and is a lot of fun.

What about you? Are you a satisficer or an optimizer?