Textbook updates - 22 Feb 2021

I'm making some terminology changes to the textbook that will be a bit confusing. I apologize—but I think it'll probably be better, even for this batch.

Change #1

So far, you've focused on identifying values as opposed to norms and goals. I am introducing a name for the criteria that separates values from these other things. I say that values have diffuse, untracked benefits.

Norms and goals are the opposite. They have focused, tracked benefits. With norms you want to spread an expectation, or fit in. Goals are about a particular outcome you're tracking.

So this is a name for the axis that separates values from the others.

Change #2

When you interview someone about their values, I am putting a much greater emphasis on making sure that a person really has the value you come up with. We have had a problem in the past where the interviewer might come up with a value that sounds nice, or inspiring, but isn't actually the interview subject's value. So I am emphasizing the need to check that the subject has adopted the value as a policy — by which I mean they regularly try to live by the value within a certain context.

Change #3

I am putting more emphasis on the idea that values are attention-guiding. I covered this in What the Hell are Values but I'm landing on it harder. I am encouraging people to write out values in the form of "Approach <context> with <thing to pay attention to>". E.g.,


"Approach <my relationships with a young person> with an eye for <how I can contribute to their life and be present even from afar, and learn how to support them over time, adapting to new ages and circumstances>."

Change #4

I have coined a new term for a value that you've double checked is

  • ☑️ attention-guiding,
  • ☑️ has diffuse, untracked benefits for a person, and
  • ☑️ that they've adopted as a policy

I now call such a double-checked, written value a DAP: a diffusely-beneficial attentional policy. This acronym is mostly to help you remember to check all three aspects when you write out a person's value.

Change #5

I've replaced our previous way of interviewing other people about their values with a new exercise. The old thing was called "wisdom interviews". It was hard to teach and error-prone. The new exercise is called "

". I hope it's also more fun.


All in all, there are four new terms

  1. diffuse, untracked benefits
  2. adopted the value as a policy
  3. DAP - diffusely-beneficial attentional policy
  4. Values Excavation Teams

I apologize for making these changes mid-flight, but I think they'll make things more concrete and doable.



P.S. If you'd like to look more into these new terms, you can visit

— this is a new essay I'm working on which will replace What the Hell are Values for the next batch of the class.