“Young people who pretend to be wise to the ways of the world are mostly just cynics. Cynicism masquerades as wisdom, but it is the farthest thing from it. Because cynics don’t learn anything. Because cynicism is a self-imposed blindness, a rejection of the world because we are afraid it will hurt us or disappoint us. Cynics always say ‘no.’ But saying ‘yes’ begins things. Saying ‘yes’ is how things grow. Saying ‘yes’ leads to knowledge. ‘Yes’ is for young people. So for as long as you have the strength to, say ‘yes.’”
This generation doesn’t make phone calls, because everyone is in constant, lightweight contact in so many other ways: texting, chatting, and social-network messaging. And we don’t just have more options than we used to. We have better ones: These new forms of communication have exposed the fact that the voice call is badly designed. It deserves to die.
Consider: If I suddenly decide I want to dial you up, I have no way of knowing whether you’re busy, and you have no idea why I’m calling. We have to open Schrödinger’s box every time, having a conversation to figure out whether it’s OK to have a conversation. Plus, voice calls are emotionally high-bandwidth, which is why it’s so weirdly exhausting to be interrupted by one.
“One sense of “normal” is statistically normal: what everyone else does. The other is the sense we mean when we talk about the normal operating range of a piece of machinery: what works best. These two senses are already quite far apart. Already someone trying to live well would seem eccentrically abstemious in most of the US. That phenomenon is only going to become more pronounced. You can probably take it as a rule of thumb from now on that if people don’t think you’re weird, you’re living badly.”—The Acceleration Of Addictiveness. (via christopher-kuehl)
“It’s hard to do a really good job on anything you don’t think about in the shower.”—
writes Paul Graham, whose essay The Top Idea in Your Mind argues that thinking in the shower isn’t just fucking around. In fact, it’s the key to doing your most creative work.
What I think resonated so strongly about Steve Jobs’ quote on creativity, which made huge waves on the internet a few weeks ago, was that he directly mentioned the word “guilt” in connection with creative thinking:
When you ask a creative person how they did something, they may feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after awhile.
That’s literally how it works, but getting there sometimes takes unprecedented amounts of non-work. Paul calls it “working ambiently.” Caterina Fake calls it “working on the right thing (as opposed to freaking out).” I’ve always thought of it as being consumed by an idea, and then not knowing what to do besides filter everything around me through that particular lens.
The scary part about this way of working is that A) you can only control it indirectly at best, B) that working on the right things doesn’t always feel like working, and C) that tangible results are not guaranteed.
Pulling your nose off of the grindstone for a second is, for me at least, the hardest part—but also the only place to start being open to possibilities. I find over-and-over again that letting go is the only way I solve my toughest problems.
Paul’s essay is a good reminder not to lose hope in the process and that if you lose sight of your top idea or find yourself freaking out about the wrong things, the solution is simple: take a shower.