Friday, November 10, 2017

Actively cultivating a patient appreciation for the richness of experience

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As I mentioned previously, my interests have shifted (See: On Professional Maturation). In sum, I have been thinking about life differently than I have in the past. If I had to describe the feeling, I would say it was something akin to a patient appreciation for the richness of experience.

I can’t pinpoint the source of the feeling but it’s starting to permeate through every facet of my life. The best way to describe it is to borrow an explanation from Angela Duckworth, who wrote a book entitled Grit about perseverance, which I currently reading. I did however catch her on Freakonomics Podcast over the summer, and her explanation – the one I want to pull from – struck me.

She spoke about the need for novelty in one’s life; how it is natural to seek out new experiences but acting on that need too often can have negative consequences. Pursuing novel work for example, through a series of lateral moves comes at the cost of depth in a particular field and produces generalists.

The trick, according to Duckworth is being able to satisfy your need for novelty by pursuing the nuance in your field. The best way to do this is to look at everything in your known universe and break it down into its smallest component parts, pick one, and focus on maximizing your understanding, appreciation, or performance of or within that particular subset. This approach simultaneously satisfies your need for novelty but also increases your mastery of your given domain.

I find Duckworth’s logic compelling and I think it applies more broadly. Not only to my work but also in my personal interactions with others and in how I use the internet. I’ve committed mentally to working in my current field for the foreseeable future, I’m pursuing more meaningful relationships with others, and I’m far less interested in what's popular online. In so doing, what I’m finding is that not only do I have a patient appreciation for the richness of experience, but that I enjoy actively cultivating it.



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