Productivity vs. Chaos

Productive use of one’s time is perhaps the primary goal of adult life in our society, yet we find it more difficult than ever to define what productivity actually is. 

Often we act under the assumption that productivity is simply whatever makes us feel productive, though that sort of circular logic fails in that its efficacy is not measured by way of an external result.

It seems to me the simplest, most helpful definition is:

Activities can be regarded as productive in so far that they bring about the desired result.

So is productivity than our true North, the thing by which our lives should be organized?

The answer to that question is contingent on your own trust of the human mind’s ability to determine what is actually worth pursuing.

If the desired results are destructive, can the activities that led to them be considered productive?

Alas, it seems we’ve fallen into a semantic game. The truth of the matter is, your own awareness is all that you can know to exist, and the only thing by which all else is measured. If you cannot trust your rational mind, you trust nothing at all.

Results are generated by right behaviors, and right behaviors are determined by analysis of previous results, which in turn are the data by which we can design systems to achieve desired results.

Easier said than done, though we may still take comfort that paths to success can be defined so simply.

Systems thinking may be our best defense against the chaotic world around us, and the disordered states of mind that arise as our ego scrambles to protect itself.

 

 

Life on Autopilot

Every organism aims at achieving maximum results with minimum energy expenditure.

Humans alone are presented with a conscious choice regarding how much energy they use in a day. Any individual can decide to spend many hours a day in vigorous exercise of the mind or body, or else in sloth and complacency with external forces. Few choose the former, but the ones who do often spend several years in a state of discomfort before achieving an exponential growth in available resources.

Many have marveled at the achievements of such “non-conformists” and attributed their success to a cultivated defiance of what is often called “autopilot” as if the high achieving outliers in our society live in a state of constant resistance to the overwhelming social pressures all around them.

What an exhausting existence that would be.

Rather, our capacity for “autopilot” is as useful to the art of living as it is to landing an aircraft. Every commercial airliner today still uses highly trained human pilots because rigid, structured systems of control are best used in tangent with a highly responsive, creative element. Such it is with our unconscious patterns of behavior, which we in large part control through the decisions of our conscious minds.

The key is not in discarding unconscious patterns altogether, but rather in selecting those patterns after conscious, disciplined consideration of your own goals and predilections.

 

 

How to Not Fool Yourself

We often operate under the false impression that we are born with an unearned understanding of our own talent and potential.

But the truth is, self awareness comes from a retrospective view of our past successes and failures. Only when we have meaningful feedback from the outside world can we understand what we’re good at, and what activities grant us lasting satisfaction.

How many people want to be rock stars or celebrities, never having interacted with a large crowd, or gone without sleep for several nights, or dealt with the scrutiny of an unforgiving general public?

People want to be rock stars, because they don’t understand what the experience of being a rock star actually is.

Its dangerous to pursue something that you don’t love, and that you’re not good at. And its incredible how easily the human mind can deceive itself into doing just that.

Every person who pursues a risky career path wonders at some point or another:

Am I kidding myself? 

The answer to that question isn’t difficult to derive. Action will tell you. Failure will tell you. This is why the idea that failure is a necessary to precursor to success is much more than a glib platitude.

Without failure, we don’t learn our own weak points.

Without success, we have no understanding of our own aptitudes.

The two skills you must possess to answer that terrible question:

Am I kidding myself? 

Are these:

  1. The ability to know failure from success, and stare unflinchingly into the face of either one.
  2. The bravery to deduce your own talents and shortcomings, not from daydreams and intuitions, but concrete evidence from past instances of action taking.

Don’t Be Motivated

Why would a reasonable person attempt to do something incredibly difficult?

Why do our cultural heroes have lives that seem a ceaseless procession of self-inflicted hardship and struggle?

Strangest of all, why does pleasure easily gained make us feel hollow, whilst earned victories, no matter how small, make us feel that our souls are firmly rooted in the earth?

Because we can envision the future, and observe the present. Humans beings have the unique ability to consciously conceptualize our ideals. By our own free will, we can determine a goal and calibrate our present actions towards that goal. If that goal is not achieved, we experience frustration and despair.

Failure is the confrontation between our ideals and our actions.

Frustration, despair, and guilt are all facets of the same pain; that of perceiving that our framework for acting in the world is not adequate to meet our goals. Such a perception is difficult to accept and act upon, but doing so is the very essence of personal growth and progress.

Where in this model of human behavior is the need for “motivation”?

Hoping for motivation is putting the cart before the horse. The feeling of wanting to do difficult things is not cultivated out of thin air. That feeling is an inseparable consequence of selecting a difficult, concrete goal and moving towards that goal with an efficacious behavioral framework.

That is why failure is really no failure at all.

If you are failing, and adjusting behavior accordingly, you are necessarily getting closer to your desired outcome.

And not only are you moving closer, but you are actually accelerating.

But goal setting without proper behavior calibration is nothing more than fantasizing.

Action taking without close analysis of results is mindless labor.

Motivation in itself is just an emotional high. It doesn’t help you. It doesn’t bring you closer to what you want. It’s only a feeling.

What matters is how that emotion is applied in action, and from what stimulus the emotion arises.

Are you motivated because you are accelerating towards your goal?

Or because to not be motivated would be to spiral downwards into a depression?

These are difficult questions. How could they not be?

Easy questions are not questions at all, for if they are easy one already knows the answer.

Easily achieved goals are not really goals but whims, shared by drug addicts and toddlers alike.

So expect difficulty. Expect failure. Relish in self-examination. Take pleasure in adversity, and above all, hold onto your ideal.

Because without a clear ideal to move towards, your life will lack more than motivation.

Meaning itself will whither and fade.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Art Is Insanity

Why do we create things with no clear utility?

In the hopes that another person will understand the artifact of our personal experience. That someone else will recognize themselves in our creation, and by so doing allow for a moment of perfect kinship.

Art is nothing but communication.

Artists are those who find conventional means of communication insufficient for their personal experience. Those who have inner storms and glories that conversation cannot translate, that standard speech cannot make intelligible. And so they splatter paint onto the canvas, forge steel, craft words, form melodies and do so compulsively until the result is something they recognize as themselves, but also more than themselves. This, the transcendent work, the timeless masterpiece, is the goal of every creator.

Every artist has their own motivation. Perhaps they are attempting to justify their own existence. Or maybe they are making their own gravestone, something to stand beyond their lifetime as a sign of significant existence. But each of the manifold motivations contains the same seed; loneliness.

The artist hopes to be understood, no matter what they may tell you.

For why else would they create at all?

Therein lies the angst making paradox.

The great artist must hope to be understood yet they must never let that end direct them. To submit to that motivating hope is to be swayed by convention. For if you aim at being understood, within or without your lifetime, nothing you can make will transcend your narrowest limit. All will be restricted by your fear. The deepest, noblest depths of your unconscious will remain submerged, untamed by conscious direction and ecstatic abandon.

This is why most art is neither good nor bad. Instead, it is nothing at all.

Within it, you see the artist’s loneliness, their hoping for esteem and understanding strapped around their ankle like a weight, holding them back from what might be an honest expression.

Art is Insanity. Art is the weirdo’s only chance at pure kinship, raw communication. It is the solace of both loners and Kings. But if your fear and desperation contain you, the insanity will remain where it was formed. Deep within you, hidden and waiting for release.