Whether you set the route or leave it open-ended, you can discover things along the way.
Constraints produce their own magic. They make you innovate based off what you have to play with. But so too do indefinite destinations.
Out of curiosity blooms everything.
The more we know, the more we want to know. We permit our heuristic temptations to guide the discovery process. The rush to fill ignorance with self-knowledge makes us feel alive.
The world is more like a playground than a camp. It begs us to take more information than we need. But in borrowing its widgets, we have to reciprocate to ensure what we put out or reinvent comes back to enrich nature itself.
It’s rough and ruthless, but criticism saves you time. People aren’t trying to be mean. They’re just trying to keep you from banging your head into the same wall.
Scientists can’t continue publishing the same paper over and over again. Apple can’t just release another iPhone without drastic improvements. As they say, sameness destroys creativity.
Instead of giving up, what critical advice does is redirect you. Writes Tom Standage in Writing on the Wall:
“Adam Smith. He wrote much of his book in the British Coffee House, his base and postal address in London and a popular meeting place for Scottish intellectuals, among whom he circulated chapters of his book for criticism and comment.”
In search of a little audience, you get the feedback you need to keep iterating until we get it right. Naturally, the process is frustrating for all artists. Writes Fred Kaplan on John Coltrane’s experimental determination.
In a backstage interview with Coltrane during intermission at the Stockholm concert, a local jazz DJ noted that some critics were finding his new sound “unbeautiful” and “angry,” then asked, “Do you feel angry?” Coltrane replied, in a gentle, deliberative tone, “No, I don’t,” adding, “The reason I play so many sounds, maybe it sounds angry, it’s because I’m trying so many things at one time, you see? I haven’t sorted them out. I have a whole bag of things that I’m trying to work through and get the one essential.”
The fear of messing up is good quality control. The feedback loop is a critical ingredient to success. Otherwise, you may just be making something that never sticks.
People don’t like thinking. It’s painful. Like denoting page numbers, you have to get your brain’s cells to assemble in an attempt to establish some order.
There’s a reason why there are so few philosophers and so many people attending entertainments. It is easier to sit back and play, to consume in our default setting rather than tinkering with abstract trains of thought.
We give anxiety power, and the right brain consciousness loves to conjure up imaginary bombs of self-destruction.
What if instead of keeping any worries in we could express them through outward movement, some form of art.
The art of fiction, the art of underwater basket weaving, the art of rolling dice — whatever you fancy as a release from the prison of unnecessary worry.
Keep in mind that anxiety is not a prerequisite for making stuff. All creativity is a form of prayer.
There are plenty of genuinely happy artists that express themselves through their work. I’d say Paul McCartney is one of them, for instance. But there’s plenty on the opposite side of the spectrum like Francis Bacon or Vincent Van Gogh, whose paintings allowed them to release inner demons.
Transmuting either happiness or anxiety into a blank canvass helps prevent any excess storage.
“The talent to make art accompanies the need for that art; they arrive together.” — John Berger, Here is Where We Meet
In fact, he really wasn’t open to possibilities at all, now that she thought about it. How very odd it was, she thought, to live your life so decisively, to be so sure of how everything should be, as if everything in life was black and white instead of various shades of gray.
But not just any reflection. Reflection in terms of boredom, gratitude, and mental processing.
No one ever died sitting and doing nothing or staring out into space. These are precious moments where the mind has no choice but to wander, to dance with fear, and to play with ephemeral thoughts. You don’t need another splash of smartphone dopamine, you need to relax.
Lifehacker Tim Ferriss writes in his gratitude journal every morning. The simple technique may also do wonders for you, a gentle reminder that life depends on others. Remove the ego.
Reflection also comes in the form of deliberate processing. If you want to remember more, you can try two things. One, you can teach something to yourself as you would a child.
A lot of people tend to use complicated vocabulary and jargon to mask when they don’t understand something. The problem is we only fool ourselves because we don’t know that we don’t understand. In addition, using jargon conceals our misunderstanding from those around us.
The other mental processing hack is reducing interference. Give your brain a 10-15 minute rest by sitting in a quiet room and dimmed lights. No phones, no distractions, only effortless brain rest.
Reflection comes in many forms, a habit vital to success in today’s fast-paced, screen-obsessed mobile culture.
We all want to be ahead of the game. But nobody knows anything, nor do they want to do the work. They just want to hear advice that sounds good.
The problem with advice is that what usually works for one person rarely works for another. Success happens in so many different ways. All that matters is we keep swimming towards our next destination.
But where on Earth do we go?
Sometimes the best direction is a mere adaptation, we start with what we have and ace it. Elasticity guarantees that we’ll have come out changed.