Finding What You Care About

Answering the question: How do I know if I care about this?

How do you know what you really care about? How do you distinguish it from passing whims?

There are two ideas that I think can help answer this.

Before you read, keep in mind that this post is not concerned with truth, but with “usefulness” or applicability. I’m not trying to define what love / caring mean; I’m trying to answer the question: “How do I know I care about this or love this?”


“Love without sacrifice is theft.”

Procrustes (Skin in the Game, Nicholas Nassim Taleb)

This is an idea I’ve written about earlier.

You can’t have something for nothing – everything has a price. Something you have to sacrifice.

If you cared enough for something, you’d be willing to pay the price.

And the only way to know you care enough? It’s to actually pay the price.

Words mean nothing. It’s only our actions that tell what we care about.

If you love chocolate – are you willing to spend your money on it?

If you love running or training or any hobby – are you willing to squeeze out time for it? Just talking about it doesn’t signify anything.

If you love someone – do you make time for them? Have you done anything for them that you’d not do for anyone else?

It’s easy to say that I care about XYZ. Anyone can say anything. It costs nothing.

It’s much harder to do something, because doing is harder. Hence actions always speak louder.

I believe that someone who does something, howsoever small, cares more than someone who talks about something, howsoever big.

A person inconveniencing himself by dropping off his female colleagues first during the office cab ride at night or going out of the way to take an accident victim to hospital cares more than a person who only tweets about patriarchy or gives lectures on empathy. The actions cost something, the words didn’t – on the contrary, the words only enhanced the speaker’s “moral” worth in most people’s eyes by signaling virtue.

(As an aside – that’s also why I avoid writing or talking on grand topics if I can help it)

Surviving Time

Nicholas Nassim Taleb talks of the Lindy Effect in his book Skin in the Game.

It basically means: The only effective judge of things is time. Time is the ultimate laboratory.

That which is โ€œLindyโ€ is what ages in reverse, i.e., its life expectancy lengthens with time, conditional on survival.

Skin in the Game, Nicholas Nassim Taleb

Broadway shows that lasted for, say, one hundred days, had a future life expectancy of a hundred more. For those that lasted two hundred days, two hundred more. The heuristic became known as the Lindy effect

Skin in the Game, Nicholas Nassim Taleb

So something that has survived is likely to continue surviving.

A book that’s been widely read and passed down for thousands of years (The Gita or Meditations etc.) is likely to be around hundreds of years hence; today’s bestseller might not be.

It’s in a way linked to the previous idea that actions count for more than words.

The action of survival over time counts for more than the words of experts / analysts who predict survival.

This isn’t a perfect concept (what is, after all?) – many useless / harmful things do survive for long (anyone can think of some customs, traditions that fit here), so survival by itself doesn’t indicate value.

But the point in this blog is different – how do I know what I care about?

The idea is: The longer I’ve cared about something, perhaps the more I care.

I’ve noticed this with people and pursuits.

  1. People: Many friendships start well but quickly fade away – probably boredom sets in or we don’t make an effort anymore.
  2. Pursuits: Something seems incredibly fun, but doesn’t survive time – it loses it’s charm as you keep doing it.

“Lindy effect” interested me because it’s close to something I’d thought of as “surviving time”.

So, tennis, football, table-tennis all seemed things I loved at different points of time, but even then I knew there was something off. When I started playing (T = 0), I was crazy about tennis; when I continued for a few years (say T = 5 years) I still enjoyed it, but it was less fun than it used to be.

There was an innocent sort of fun, the feeling you have when your toy is new, to playing tennis in the first couple of years. It was still fun after the fifth or sixth year, but it didn’t compare to what it used to be. This convinced me I shouldn’t take it up seriously – a very good decision in hindsight. Same for other games.

I thought this was the way everything has to be – things eventually pall on us. Fun is a decreasing function; it reduces with time, and nothing can be fun forever.

The first hobby that’s defied this, that survived time, that’s actually become more fun with time for me is weight-training (so far). The moment I first stepped in a gym I loved it, and that has only increased over the years, even if I’m not very good at it.

This is a good metric to help you know when something might be losing its zest: Do I still like it as much as I used to?

Ditto with people, though it might sound harsh. Do I still enjoy their company as much as I used to? Do I still care about them as much as I used to?

Probably that’s why childhood friendships last, if they’re genuine. They’ve survived so long, they’ve proven their antifragility, their ability to outlast time.

And if you agree with a philosopher called Heidegger who said boredom is the awareness of time passing, you can think of this as “surviving boredom”.

Is this activity still as fun as it used to be? Is it still as much fun spending time with someone as it used to be?

Mathematically, it’s a curve that is non-decreasing. How much you value it might be constant or it might go up, but going down is a signal you might not care as much as you think you do.

Of course, it’s only a general trend. Everyone has off days where nothing seems interesting – it’s better to look at this over a longer period.

You might argue nothing can survive time, nothing can remain fun forever and everything eventually loses its charm – in other words, that no “marriage can have a honeymoon period forever”. I used to believe that too.

What changed? Simply that I believe I found things that survived time. So maybe I can’t convince a skeptical reader because I’m somewhat like a religious cultist telling you you’ll be happy if you join the cult – but only because joining the cult will alter your mind in a way that’ll make you happy to be a member (credits to one of the best writers I’ve known, Paul Graham, for this awesome analogy).

Maybe that’s why I always used to wonder how some people could care so much about a particular issue – because I couldn’t care about anything myself.


So what’s the point of this blog on a very abstract idea?

This is not supposed to be a precise mathematical formula.

You shouldn’t wake up one day, think that you no longer enjoy music as much as you used to, and therefore cut it out of your life. Similarly, if a job isn’t what it used to be, it doesn’t necessarily mean you need to change tracks. There might be other reasons to stick on – comfort, safety or hopes of improvement.

It’s only a way to be conscious of how much you value something or someone.

It helps in:

  1. Prioritizing the present
  2. Committing to the future

Prioritizing the present tells you where things fit in your life. I’ll still play tennis or football or badminton, but if life gets hectic they’ll be among the first things I’d let go. I wouldn’t sacrifice much for them. And it’s much the same when it comes to finding time for people.

And the things you do care about? The things that survived time, the things for which you’ve sacrificed. These are probably very few. For these pursuits or people it’s worth rearranging the rest of your life so that you can always make time for them.

Committing to the future is about taking a leap of faith – deciding what you’ll do for the next few years based on what you know today, like taking up a job or investing time & money in getting better at a hobby or deciding which subject to pursue in college. If something’s survived time, there’s a higher chance you might continue to like it. And if it hasn’t survived time, you might still go ahead based on other considerations – say a career you’re indifferent to but which gives you time or money to enjoy other stuff. Clarity about this also helps shape our expectations from whatever we’re doing – the bar is much higher for things we’re supposed to enjoy.

Summing Up

To conclude then – when you want to know what something means to you, look at two things:

First – what have I sacrificed for it? Keep in mind that it’s past tense, sacrificed. It’s not “What will I sacrifice for it?” That’s future tense. Actions count for more than promises, that’s why looking at what you’ve done in the past is a surer signal than what you think you’ll do in the future.

Second – Has it survived time? Do I still care as much as I used to? If the answer is no, then it’s probably a decreasing function, which means there’s a chance you’ll eventually stop caring as the value you attach to it keeps reducing with time.



Actions count for more than promises, the clarity with which you have explained this, the idea about the decisions and the decreasing curve of interest is really mind blowing, keep writing, good day.


Hm I should start doing rather arguing . Well I guess people know this but they just can’t accept it. These realisations are rare and hard to implement in India’s monotony world

Deepshikha sharma

Thank you pratyush sir ,your words help in my day to day life

The kid

Dude your articles are so good. I apply your ideas to improve the quality of my thinking and life.

Uday Deshmukh

Bhai, will you please provide few links of good blogs (UPSC related)? Similar to your ones. or that you found useful other than those mentioned by you previously in your posts.


I dont know why but i have read like every blog of yours and just ordered your 2 books and looking forward to it. I feel so light after reading your blogs and your perspective of living life is somewhat different and that different thing is exciting and i hope that we will definitely meet someday


Love doesn’t need to last a lifetime for it to be real. You can’t judge the quality of a love by the length of time it lasts. Everything dies, love included. Sometimes it dies with a person, sometimes it dies on its own. The greatest love story ever told doesn’t have to be about two people who spent their whole lives together. It might be about a love that lasted two weeks or two months or two years, but burned brighter and hotter and more brilliantly than any other love before or after. Don’t mourn a failed love; there is no such thing. All love is equal in the brain.
– Krystal Sutherland


i devoted 6damn years to medical entrances and could not clear it.. but i don’t care about anything else at the moment i want to try once more.. i feel like if not this then nothing.. i am told its a bad decision i’ll regret later for wasting one more year..
This post put me in a weird position..idk if it makes sense.


Sir i apologize

But Aaj aapke lia likhna banta hai …

Mere khawabo me tmhara hona kaafi hai,
Teri wo der sari baate, mere muskan k lia kaafi hai,
avi bich raah me kismat aajama rhi,
milungi tumse ak din jaroor,
bs abhi apni pahchan bnana baaki hai.
Khair Haan mujhko tumse ishq ho gya, abhi tumko hona baki hai.


Meri Mahobbat ko itna bhi Aajmawoge kya ?

Hume Najarandaz karke , mujh Ajnabi ko bhul paoge kya ?

Dwapar yug me Rukmini ko apne krishna ka intezar tha ki mere Krishna apni Rukmini ko jaroor lene aayenge.

Iss yug me , kya Iss yug k Krishna aap apni Rukmini ko bhi lene aaoge kya ??

Maafi ๐Ÿ™๐Ÿ™
For irrelevant comment.
Your Admirer ๐Ÿ™Œ