Does Free Will Exist?

I started thinking about this when I saw the other thread telling everyone how privileged we all are. His thesis basically being my life sucked growing up -> IB is nothing compared to that, we all should be grateful -> check your privilege. 

My case: Free will does not exist. You don't pick your parents so you don't pick your genes. Similarly, you don't pick your environment. Your environment and genes determine 100% of who you are. Thus, there is almost nothing about you that you choose. Where is the free will in this?

The OP in the other thread sort of humble bragged saying "I went to a good school despite shitty household, full academic scholarship, 3.95+ GPA, 99% MCAT, ground like hell for IB." As tempting as it may be to take all the credit for beating the odds, the truth is most people are not capable of getting a 99% on the MCAT. I couldn't achieve that score no matter how hard I studied. That is genetic. He had no role in being gifted that kind of intellect. 

Having this kind of mindset has been really helpful to me on a personal level. I am grateful, and more importantly, more humble because I deeply believe that all my successes are not really due to my own doing. 


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Comments (86)

Most Helpful
Mar 20, 2021 - 11:33am

I don't think it's as black and white as: there has to be absolute free will or absolute determinism, nothing in between. Yes, there are factors we can't control that affect our lives, like being gifted with a higher than average IQ or being raised in a stable household, but at the end of the day you still have to take advantage of the skills and strengths you've been given. Simply having a high IQ doesn't guarantee success, and neither does coming from a high NW family. I'm not sure what the actual statistic is, but the majority of generational wealth is lost by the second generation, and even more is lost by the third. Personally, it's your job to perform the best you can given your outcome in the genetic and social lottery, being proud in your accomplishments yet acknowledging that without your gifts, you wouldn't have made it. Once you're successful, bless other people with your insight and help them win some battles they can't win on their own. It might be a bit naive, but we need leadership that excels in their executive decision making while also keeping in mind the people who weren't so lucky. Life isn't as clean as hard work -> success, and recognizing that reality might really change the way we look at each other for the better.

Mar 24, 2021 - 10:35pm

Thats accurate. 3rd generation is the one that usually becomes ungrateful and spoiled.

  • Analyst 1 in AM - Equities
Mar 20, 2021 - 11:39am

contingent on the fact that you are able to attain a college education, and aren't in a war-torn country or one with hyperinflation, free-will begins here. From college, you have every tool available to yourself to take on the world. Want to become an investment banker, go prep technicals? Want to code the next billion dollar startup, the odds are incredibly slim, but nothing is stopping you. Go to a non-target? Transfer to a better one. 

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Mar 20, 2021 - 1:43pm

"I believe in free will, I have no other choice" - some dead white dude

...and the Truth shall set you free
  • 3
Mar 24, 2021 - 3:55pm

I think it was that delusional wanker Rousseau, but could also have been Voltaire

...and the Truth shall set you free
Mar 20, 2021 - 3:04pm

The MCAT is really challenging. 

"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." - Bruce Lee

Mar 20, 2021 - 5:02pm

I believe in free will. Your genetics and environment are not the only factors that determine how you make decisions. Many times, a decision you make (study or don't study, exercise or don't exercise) is completely up to you. This is why you see people (even twins) coming from the same environment having very different outcomes. 

Mar 21, 2021 - 10:45am

From what I've read, twin studies actually suggest the opposite of what you're saying. Identical twins who are separated at birth and raised in different environments often have very similar eating habits, BMI, SAT scores etc. This means genes are more important than your surroundings. 


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  • Developer in RE - Comm
Mar 21, 2021 - 12:56pm

Correct, also true of adopted kids. On many important traits, they resemble their biological parents and biological siblings, whom they often haven't even have met, more than they do the parents who adopted and raised them or the adopted siblings they grew up with.

I've seen this happen personally- am friends with a guy who was adopted and grew up into a totally different socioeconomic stratum than he was raised in (adoptive parents were very blue-collar people, but he went to college, then grad school, then became very successful. Then, as an adult, he tracked down both of his biological parents and other biological relatives. Turned out that they were all highly-successful professionals, and beyond that his personality was a lot more similar to theirs than to the people he grew up with. I met them and it was pretty surreal. 

Even more true for identical twins separated at birth- there's basically an entire genre of stories about this situation and how incredibly similar they turn out to be.

Mar 23, 2021 - 3:08pm

Hymen G. Rickover

This means genes are more important than your surroundings. 

You can't just make a blanket statement that nature is more important than nurture.

"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." - Bruce Lee

  • Intern in IB - Gen
Mar 20, 2021 - 5:35pm

I consciously agree that there isn't really free will, but it's depressing to think about so I haven't internalized it

Mar 20, 2021 - 8:29pm

I consciously agree that there isn't really free will, but it's depressing to think about so I haven't internalized it

You probably don't want to think about it because it might make you responsible. Free will exists.

"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." - Bruce Lee

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  • Intern in IB - Gen
Mar 21, 2021 - 5:15am

I meant that I've internalized that free will does in fact exist, since it would sap me of any motivation at all if I internalized that free will isn't real. It makes life much more meaningful to believe that I'm responsible for my happiness, fulfillment, and outcomes

  • Research Associate in Research - Other
Mar 20, 2021 - 5:39pm

Free will exists.
I went through some fucked up shit as a teenager that formed such a negative and biased view of the world. Worse is that I thought was I normal because I never experienced any other world views. That sounds pretty extreme but yes it was. It was that much of a fucked up shit.

ALL I KNEW WAS THAT I HAD TO CHANGE. So I decided to change just everything about me. No pills, no therapists, no help. PURE BRUTE FORCE. It took me years all the way up to my college years but I finally learned exactly what my problem was. AND I FIXED THAT SHIT. I feel like I fell down an abyss so deep that no light is able to reach, but I climbed out of there. I carry that confidence with me everywhere I go. No hardship will ever be that difficult. And I did all that through power of my own will.

If that's not free will, Idk what is.

Mar 20, 2021 - 7:43pm

Free will is not about the cards you are dealt in life. It is about the decisions you make and the actions you take.

Imagine a running race between two people. One begins with a 100m head start. Has the one who began second lost any free will? He can decide how hard he runs, or he could decide to quit. The first runner has the same options. Just because it is harder for one to come first has not diminished his ability to express free will.

Someone else being born with 200IQ and wealthy parents does not diminish your ability to make decisions. 

Mar 20, 2021 - 10:33pm


I bet in 200 years science could predict every single thing a person will do for a year

This is an interesting concept. 

"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." - Bruce Lee

Mar 21, 2021 - 4:28am


isnt every decision you make just an effect of some reaction in your brain, I bet in 200 years science could predict every single thing a person will do for a year


Quantum mechanics at a fundamental structure level.

And even if you accept determinism, read about chaos theory. The magnitude of computing power required to predict chaotic behaviour is always orders of magnitude higher than the complexity of the chaotic system itself, ensuring that you would never be able to predict things with certainty.

Mar 20, 2021 - 10:49pm

Damn I love free-will topic. Yes you are correct that your environment and genes determine 100% of who you are. However - you are in control of your thoughts. If I want to think of the word "banana" - Did I just think of that word because of my genes? No. Because of my environment? Yes, there's a banana in front of me. But let me choose a random location - Lets say England. I've never been to England, but most of us humans have heard of England. So I do have control when deciding if I think about England, either the meaning of England, or the appearance of England. Not determined fully by genes or my environment that thought. So we have now a new thing that comes into play - The Mind. Sure, our environment and the way we grow up changes the development of the Mind. But we choose if we want to follow our environment or not. Sure, the decision to follow something or not involves making moral decisions, and morality may be ingrained in our DNA. There's no way of knowing if a moral decision is made by your environment, your genes (they may not be expressed during a moral decision), or your mind within free-will. 

What you have is a deterministic free-will philosophy. Many people believe the same. However, the guy who received a 3.95+ gpa, 99% MCAT - chose to do that. He chose to study, and took certain classes to make that 3.95 gpa possible. 

You choose if you want to follow what your genetics or environment are propelling you to do. 

If there were no free-will, there would be no virtue. But I do believe that I've been in situations where my body and brain wanted to make me act immorally, but I chose to do the right thing.

To go further on this topic (though on a tangent): If there were no free-will, well knock out the possibility of God's existence. Because, what God would create humans to send themselves to Hell for acting immorally (if their moral actions stemmed solely from genetics and environment?). People believe, God operates on ET Simultaneity, where an omniscient God knows your every move, only because God exists eternally and your present all happens at all the same time on God's eternal view, which allows for God to be omniscient while at the same time, allowing you to have free-will. 

When you say there's no free-will, you're also eliminating the possibility of God's existence and the human Mind (which operates separate from the body). You're also saying that no criminal deserves to be in jail at all (because they acted solely on genetics and environment). Those are strong claims. 

Mar 21, 2021 - 12:52pm


What you have is a deterministic free-will philosophy. Many people believe the same. However, the guy who received a 3.95+ gpa, 99% MCAT - chose to do that. He chose to study, and took certain classes to make that 3.95 gpa possible. 

+1 SB. I would also point to something else about choice.  We all share the same primate-based genes. We all want food, leisure, sex, and comfort. These basic elements are deeply ingrained in our genes. Nobody is born wanting to work hard - you have to will yourself to do it. When you work hard at something, whether mental or physical, your entire body is screaming "Don't do this!"  Our brains and bodies are genetically hard-wired to pursue pleasure and avoid pain. 

Even an Olympic runner knows that the first step in a marathon means a lot of pain and effort ahead. The guy may have every genetic advantage on Earth in terms of running ability but to get through that marathon, it's still going to hurt - step after step, his body, driven by our genetics, will be telling him to quit and go eat a burger. Call up his buddies and get hammered instead of doing this marathon.

Mar 23, 2021 - 6:21pm


What you have is a deterministic free-will philosophy. Many people believe the same. However, the guy who received a 3.95+ gpa, 99% MCAT - chose to do that. He chose to study, and took certain classes to make that 3.95 gpa possible. 

You choose if you want to follow what your genetics or environment are propelling you to do. 

I overall agree with you, however the above assumes that the choice of working hard is not ingrained in one's character due to nature/nurture. I am not sure if that is the case. You just know that some people will always choose to do the hard thing - is that them really exercising free wil or is it a hard-wired switch?

IMO we cannot really know the answer, so the most useful thing to do, is to assume an asnwer for ourselves which allows us to be better.

Mar 23, 2021 - 9:55pm


However, the guy who received a 3.95+ gpa, 99% MCAT - chose to do that. He chose to study, and took certain classes to make that 3.95 gpa possible. 

Ehh, that's like saying the guy born 7 foot tall chose to be a basketball player. That kind of choice is an illusion.

The decision was made for him once he hit that growth spurt. He simply executed on the path that was laid out in front of him. In other words, it was the path of least resistance. I find a lot of academically gifted people are like this too. They do it because they're good at it. Studying is the path of least resistance to success.

And then I look at my younger brother. Desperately wanted to study and get the grade but had pretty severe ADHD.

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Gen
Mar 21, 2021 - 4:35am

You know what's really gonna fuck with your head? Sit down and consider the following answer to your question: Does it even matter?

Mar 21, 2021 - 7:15am

I've wrestled with this idea and I've come to the conclusion that we cannot know with certainty if there is free will at all or not. 

I'll take the premise that only know for sure that we are thinking (Descartes: cogito ergo sum, I think therefore I exist). We all know that feeling of "thinking" and while I'm not going to try to explain it, I know for sure it is there. 

This leads to the next point: we have no clue whether or not we are really able to control it is what we are thinking. Are we just the product of our experiences and genetics and are our thoughts just some result of the chemical reactions going on in our brain, or do we have some genuine ability to exercise control over whatever it is going on in our heads? 

There's no doubt that we are very greatly influenced by genetics and our past experiences, but is it the only thing that makes us think what we think and do what we do? 

I very much feel like I'm in control of my thoughts and can think about the many ways that my thoughts are not exclusively the result of previous chemical reactions in my brain, but I don't think there's any great way to connect our consciousness to what happens in our brain, since we just don't know what consciousness is. I'm not going to try to go into that either. We don't know if the mind and body are two separate entities or if our sense of consciousness. We can run as many thought experiments as we want. We can never definitely get the answer to this. 

I'm actually fairly encouraged by this, although this may seem a bit defeating. We might as well do what we feel is in our power to do what is best and be our best. As stated above, there would not be much virtue without free will. We might as well go on acting as if there is free will, despite our lack of knowledge. We will in turn be virtuous people and try our best to do and get what we want. 

Mar 21, 2021 - 10:09am

In college I partied my ass off way more than most people.....alcoholism runs absolutely rampant in my family. I destroyed my GPA, health, etc. At some point, I DECIDED to beat my genes and do something with my life.

I like partying, hanging out, and doing nothing just like anybody else. I WILLED myself to work while going to night school, to get into IB, but every single day, all I want to do is hang out with friends and drink some beers.

The idea of lacking free will becomes a very slippery slope. If someone works 80 hours a week and another person is super lazy and can only hold a part-time job, how do we explain that?  Well one guy is just born ambitious and the other guy is born lazy.  We can't do anything about that. It's nobody's fault as to the outcome in their lives.

Trust me, I'm a hard-working guy, but I like hanging out just like anyone else. In its core, the belief that we lack free will is a dehumanizing idea.  It assumes that people who are ambitious are just born robots and that they don't enjoy hanging out with friends and taking it easy like the rest of us. This just isn't true. (It's like saying, "Look at that really muscled in shape guy over there. Well you know, he just doesn't like donuts and ice cream like me. When he tastes donuts, it's like broccoli for him")

Or take it another step. One guy is selling crack and robbing people at gun point and another kid in his neighborhood is working hard at a McDonald's to pay rent.  Well, it's not the robber's fault....he's just born that way. Two different people same background yet they make different choices.

Of course, environment is very important, but you go far enough down this train of thought and no one is responsible for anything in life, not even fraud, theft, lieing, rape, murder....nothing. Or on the other hand, someone gives to charity, helps the poor, goes out of his way to help others.  Don't think either is good or bad.  Just all genetic and environment. What bullshit.

  • Intern in AM - Equities
Mar 21, 2021 - 6:57pm

Drinking, socializing/partying in college is the norm, you didn't "beat" anything genetic related.

Go tell this to someone with actual severe genetic setbacks such as idiopathic stature, autism, disabilities, facial deformities to "just beat your genetics." I'm sure that conversation would go well. 

Mar 21, 2021 - 8:02pm

Yes drinking/socializing in college is the norm. I was not drinking norm amounts of alcohol even by college standards.

You do realize that some people have a genetic predesposition to alcoholism, right? There are people who literaly can't have one beer.  If you're drinking one, you're drinking ten minimum. That was me.

Perhaps, you should ask the guy living under the bridge slamming $7 bottles of vodka whether alcoholism is tough to beat.

Mar 21, 2021 - 11:53am

OP - Before we dive into answering the question based on presuppositions - can you define "free will" so we can work off the same definition?

Much philosophical disagreement come from unclear or assumed starting points. People huff and puff at each other, then realize they were talking past each other the whole time (if they realize this at all).

Just had my trade dispute rejected by Schwab for a loss of 35k. This single issue alone should be a gigantic red flag to anyone who trades on their platform.

If they have a system error, and you do not video record your trading (they actually said this), they will not honour their fuck up. Switching everything away from them. Fuck this company.

  • 1
Mar 21, 2021 - 3:42pm

This is the same structure of Nature v Nurture we simply do not know. 

But here's my POV. 

Sure I have free will to dress myself. But I am limited to my clothes in my closet (no free will). If I don't like any of my cloths I can walk around midtown nude (free will). Sure we are products of our environments but we can always change the situation. We are able to adapt to the situations that present themselves; how you choose to react is your free will, what situation arises or was biologically predetermined is the limiting factor of your free will.   

If you ask me there are probably more important things to worry about in life instead of deeply philosophical metaphysical unanswerable questions. 

  • Intern in IB-M&A
Mar 21, 2021 - 4:27pm

I just listened to Sam Harris on his recent podcast where he took one and a half hours carefully drafting and defending his argument against free will and fatalism and in favor of determinism. I cannot possibly summarize it here, so I can only advocate for everyone to go listen to that thing no matter on which side you are.

Just observing the conversation here, I feel the arguments are quite superficial (this is a finance forum after all and we can't spend hours drafting our arguments). Many comments simply rely on „I make my own decisions and my success is my achievement and not anyone else's" or „I can't imagine it, so it can't be", or „Our current justice system and my religion contradict not having free will". Well, these are all emotional responses. I feel all of you, but this does not really constitute an argument for the existence of free will. I was rather on the free will side as well for these reasons, but Sam actually addresses all of these concerns and I really think it's worthwhile to challenge your position by listening to him.

The only additional argument I want to make is: The fact that you can „chose" what country to think of next does not mean you actually freely chose it. Yes, you might think of Germany and convince yourself it was your idea, but where did that idea come from? Studies found that our brain fires up and makes a subconscious choice before we consciously made that choice. I agree that generally it feels like we have free will, but upon inspection, I think this is rather misleading.

Mar 21, 2021 - 5:33pm

Let's compare though people who have motor disorders like Parkinson's disease. This is caused by imbalance of serotonin between neurons in a certain region of the brain. People with Parkinson's disease do not choose to move their hands, but their body does. So, from a pure philosophical point of view (leaving genetics aside) - Wouldn't someone without Parkinson's disease have "more free-will" than someone with the disease, if everything else was equal? I guess we have to define what free-will is. Sure, the decision to move my hands may be affected by genetics and the environment, however, sometimes the environment doesn't always cause expression of a certain genes that would have caused my hands to move automatically without my choice. Then - I cannot say that I am moving my hands because its been determined (depending on how we define free-will). 

When I decide to punch my pillow - if a gene was expressed for me to get angry (and gene expression was caused by my environment) then I have less fault since it was harder for me to retain my anger. But if no gene was expressed for me to get angry and I simply punched my pillow because I thought that was justified - then I am at fault for punching the pillow. 

I do understand your point of view @Intern in IB - MA , and its a valid one. I wasn't necessarily affirming that free-will exists, but giving counterarguments for the non-existence of free-will and reasons to lean towards the idea of free-will. I think perhaps our disagreeing points come at the definition of free-will. 

However I can definitely say there's a lack of evidence on both sides. No one can prove the mind exists without proving or disproving that genes dictate our every move. I guess we won't know but maybe the next generation will. 

  • Intern in IB-M&A
Mar 21, 2021 - 6:22pm

Definitely agree with your last point. I think the crux is that we have to divorce ourselves from the theme of genetics and body = determinism vs mind = free will. There is likely so much more to our subconscious than we are aware of and it makes so many decisions that we may or may not acknowledge. The question is do you define your subconscious as free will. I don't think I would since I literally cannot influence it by what I would call "my will or mind", but again I would not hold it against you if you do.

  • Analyst 2 in IB-M&A
Mar 21, 2021 - 4:47pm

I agree with OP. Every decision you make is predicated on the physical structure of your brain and how it gestates external information. You neither control the external stimuli nor how your physical brain computes that information, since thoughts are just electrical signals coursing through your brain in a pre-determined way based on physical neural pathways you have no say in shaping. Depressing but true.  Everything that happens to you is the result of arbitrary physical processes. Your fate was shaped since the beginning of time when the material world was first set in motion.  This is the materialist doctrine of metaphysics and one I believe in.   

Mar 23, 2021 - 7:38pm

Still, decisions must be made even if they are action and reaction. We are held responsible for our decisions. Unless you're a psychopath: 

Psychopaths know right from wrong but don't care 

"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." - Bruce Lee

  • Intern in AM - Equities
Mar 21, 2021 - 6:53pm

Free will doesn't exist. Ultimately, your genetics in general will pave your destined path. If free-will existed, then you're implying that anyone could become an actor, professional sports player, model, politician, etc you get the picture.

Genetics ultimately determine a very large portion of your life but this subject is a taboo in general. 

Mar 21, 2021 - 6:58pm

To all the anti-free will people: Why are you arguing about this issue with anyone? Isn't it already pre-determined at your birth whether you will believe in free will or not?  Hence, you're just wasting your time trying to convince others to CHOOSE a philosophy based on an argument.

Mar 23, 2021 - 7:25pm

It's not that I'm trying to convince anyone. I'm just trying to excavate how reality actually works. In trying to understand reality, I'm putting forth a thesis that seems plausible. It's irrelevant if someone else is persuaded by my argument.  


Mar 21, 2021 - 7:50pm

It's been proven that the world is non-deterministic so no. Then again, who cares. 

To live is to suffer, to survive is to find some meaning in the suffering.

Mar 21, 2021 - 8:59pm

Does free will exist as far as some magical non-physical "spirit" or "mind" existing and making choices independent of cause and effect? No, that idea makes no sense to begin with. Everything physical exists because of cause and effect and nothing exists that isn't physical. The moral aspect I think is irrelevant. 

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Mar 22, 2021 - 8:13am

Free will can exist, but most people revert to being cogs. There are structures that every person is born into. Regardless of the structure, most people grow comfortable in their uncomfortable situation (regardless of race, family, country, etc.).  It is human nature to want more, to want to improve your situation, but most people never get past that initial wanting to improve their situation.  They default to things like "I can't improve my situation because of X".  Improving your life incrementally requires a lot of work over a long time, which is why people get comfortable being uncomfortable, it is easier.   

Mar 22, 2021 - 2:30pm

Here is an excellent link to Arvin Ash's episode on Free Will

Do all living things have free will? Or are they controlled by DNA and other forces?

TL:DR given the immense complexity that it would it require for all molecules to act in concert to have a predetermined outcome it is more likely than not that there is free will. Free will is the simpler argument to make and explain - thus it's a stronger argument

Another point his guest makes is that nature's tendency is to fall into entropy - so a set determined plan has to be set into place by living things for that entity to create an orderly system. 

Mar 22, 2021 - 3:52pm

Read "Outliers" by Malcolm Gladwell, this covers off your question quite well I think. In summary Gladwell looks at people like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates etc - outlier human success stories - and looks at what exactly makes them so successful.

In summary the conclusion is it's a mix of background/luck and skill + hard work. For instance Bill Gates was very fortunate to come from a privileged background whereby he could go to an expensive school which had a computer, also he was born at exactly the right time in that computers were starting to become widespread with companies etc but not with the general public yet.

However whilst he needed the background/luck, Gladwell also says it doesn't diminish Gates' achievements in that he had to work extremely hard and be extremely smart. So in summary his achievements were a combination of the below - note that if even one of the below was missing, he wouldn't have been successful/created Microsoft:

- Luck (born at the right time/right place)

- Incredible hard work

- Intelligence

So in answer to your question - of course your background/luck in life matter, however ultimately they are out of your control. So all you can do is maximize your potential by learning as much as possible and working as hard as possible. Maybe you're not quite as smart as someone else, but you work harder and/or just have a little bit more luck in life. Equally you shouldn't beat yourself up if you work insanely hard but others achieve more than you - as long as you maximized your own potential, that's what really matters imho.

Gladwell mentions one example of an "unlucky generation" - Americans born in the early 20th century had to live through both WWI and then the Great Depression - talk about unlucky. His point is if someone like Bill Gates had been born in that era, they might have been successful but they likely wouldn't have created a multinational corporation. So yeah, just make the most of your own potential and don't overthink/worry about this stuff too much OP.

Mar 22, 2021 - 4:40pm

+1 SB. Also as I pointed out earlier, an underlining idea behind this anti-freewill perspective is that some people are born as robots who don't mind hard work at all which we all know is not true. That's like saying that MMA fighters are good because surely they feel less they fucking don't.  Each punch hurts just as much for them as it does for you.

Also, doesn't matter how smart you are.  At the end of an 80-hour work week, you're exhausted.

Mar 22, 2021 - 6:32pm

I've read Outliers but forgot that this was the larger meaning of the book. Well said. 


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Mar 22, 2021 - 5:47pm

Have to agree with you here. I believe our life is written in stone. We are under the impression that the major choices we make are ours, but I think there are certain experiences we are here for. Of course, small everyday choices about what you eat, wear, etc. are up to you. Your career/purpose is predetermined, IMO. Family and environment as well. The harsh truth about life is that we all play a role, that's the only way that it probably works. There has to be a balance of positives and negatives. Anyway, the only time we'll understand everything is once we pass. Then the truth gets revealed but is hidden from us our entire lives to protect us. At least that's the way I see it.

  • 2
Mar 22, 2021 - 6:36pm

I'm really confused what kind of boring straight as an arrow lives you all must lead to think that everything is predetermined.

I've seen my life zig zag all over the places. Also, I know more and more people who have had multiple careers in their life based on their choices. Is that all predetermined as well? I think a lot of people on WSO are kids who have not made many life changing choices yet, so everything seems to be moving in a direction out of their control.  Once life throws you a few curve balls, you'll probably change your mind.

If up to this point, you were born and the went to the college your parents wanted and then applied to IB like everyone else, I can see why you might think that there is no freewill.  But hold on for the ride, shit is about to get crazy the older you get.

Mar 22, 2021 - 8:24pm

I understand your point of view and you make valid points. However, my beliefs are based on my experiences in life and not some assumption that I didn't get into some school. Perhaps, the truth falls somewhere in between our views. 

Mar 25, 2021 - 9:16am

But if life throws you a curveball, that is an exogenous event. The only thing you can do about this is how you deal with it. And how you deal with is the only thing that is seemingly under your control. 

Is that really under your control though? However you decide to deal with it is predetermined by your genes and your life experiences up to that point.  


  • CFO in CorpFin
Mar 23, 2021 - 10:33am

We like to think of free will as in a vacuum. Well, free will doesn't work like that. Every decision you make is based on prior knowledge that you have learned throughout your life. We don't make decisions in a vacuum as our genetics, experiences, knowledge, etc. shape what we decide. 

Mar 23, 2021 - 7:30pm


A classic example used by naysayers is that if you have a choice between vanilla ice-cream and chocolate ice-cream, and you pick chocolate, that's free will! But, I'd argue that your preference for chocolate is predetermined based on all the factors that you just listed. 


Mar 23, 2021 - 3:00pm

Determination > Intelligence

Paul Graham once said that as long as a person meets a minimum threshold for intelligence, determination is a much bigger predictor of success than intelligence.

You take a hypothetical person with 100 points in intelligence and 100 points in determination. If you keep removing points from determination while keeping intelligence unchanged, you eventually end up with a hapless, ineffectual person.

On the other hand, if you remove points from intelligence while keep determination unchanged, you eventually end up with a guy who owns a bunch of taxi medallions in New York (pre-Uber) or a waste disposal company.

Mar 25, 2021 - 9:13am

I haven't read this particular point by him, but I adore his writing. Such simple language to make so many good points. 


Mar 24, 2021 - 8:10pm

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  • Prospect in PE - LBOs
Mar 25, 2021 - 9:31am

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Mar 25, 2021 - 10:05am

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Mar 25, 2021 - 4:02pm

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"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." - Bruce Lee

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