I saw a tweet from @theSamParr that hit home.
There are many dimensions to us all but our sorting minds love a good ol’ duality. The tweet conjured the “thinker-doer” dichotomy. I place myself on the thinker end of the spectrum.
I explained this insecurity on the 1 year anniversary of this newsletter:
Life feels best for me when I’m in a flow. Building. Producing not just consuming. And if this experiment taught me anything, it’s to introspect a bit less. Have more of a bias towards action. This isn’t my default. I’d say shoegazing was more my thing (I won’t lie, I do dig Jesus and Mary Chain). To people who are naturally wired for action, like Yinh who many of you know is a first-ballot Hall of Famer at getting sh%t done, this sounds obvious. Subeasy even. But I know I’m not alone. I know from conversations with many readers who are struggling with inertia.
My buddy @darjohn25 response to the tweet echoed my own feelings:
This of course reminds me of the quote:
Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.
If you are struggling to be a do-er, if that “reductionist” tweet put you on the defensive, let me first offer a forgiving perspective.
You Are Not A Profile Bio
My mom has been visiting for the past few weeks and we have been taking a walk together every morning. We were discussing how she felt lost for 3 years after she retired. She missed structure. She felt useless. Self-doubt was replacing self-worth.
I challenged her.
Did she realize how much utilitarian religion she had internalized? If your self-worth is tied to legible output you are on shaky ground. You are a small logical leap to “people who do more are worth more”. It’s an equally small leap in the other direction to victim-blaming. The philosophy fails the test of universality. What is the value of severely challenged, handicapped, or sick people in that framework? Even if we extend the framework to the gap between what you have done and what you are capable of, is that any better a foundation? You might as well look at your naked self in the mirror and score your life based on your eating choices.
These outside perspectives are worth a look:
- The Truth About My Son (YouTube)
- The Danger Of Tying Your Self-Worth To Your Net-Worth (Link)
- Your Money Says Too Much about You (Link)
Punting The “Why”
My mom’s problem disguised itself as “what should I be doing?” when it’s really a “why do we do anything?” I wasn’t being hard on my mother. I was pointing out how merciless she was to herself. Workism is wasted piety. I feel bad saying that the foundation of “work equals value” is shaky without offering an alternative. I suspect we all have to create our own meaning. And my mom admits she never explicitly recognized the script that was guiding her. If you haven’t identified your own, I’ll give you a hint: your insecurities reveal your religion.
Returning to my thoughts from 1 Year of Moontower:
There are people of all ages searching for what they are good at. What they should be doing. People that don’t know their strengths. They are curious and eager but don’t know how to direct their energy. The prescription for all of them is to just take a small step and do something. If you want to get fit, don’t wait until you buy the running sneakers you think you need. Just do a few pushups right this second. The action muscle needs to be trained. I’m working on it too. Readers, if you fall in this camp and you hang with me every week in this letter, I’d bet you have a lot to give inside you. But you can’t introspect it out. You have to take a step. And you need to continue. Like a dumb mule. Forward. Why? “Why” is a shoegazing question. Drop it. The why will come to you later. The only formula that matters today is effort x reps equals something big. If you multiply either by zero, you get zero.
In other words, I don’t have an answer for the “why”. I just know that it’s not necessary to confuse “what you are doing” as your “why”.
I’d have more luck holding my breath to scuba dive than coming up with answers to life’s meaning, So next week I’ll target an easier meta-question: “what should you be doing?”. Just as we don’t need to confuse our “what” with our “why”, I think we can figure out what we should be doing without a “why”. Darrin’s “talent/interest mismatch” is a clue.