Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Get More from Panditry

Get More from Life

Over 700 articles devoted to one idea: how to get more from life. Whether that involves doubling your reading ratelearning more with less studyingbeating procrastination or just understanding other people—and yourself.

If you're a sloppy, pretentious, sometimes rather less than honest newspaper columnist with a long record of serving as a tool of the most ignorant and wrong-headed political movement since the collapse of American fascism in the early 1940s, you might want to consider rebranding yourself as a kind of wise, detached, nonpartisan helper figure, somebody who doesn't just toss his readers a fish of transient entertainment but enables them to acquire fish of lasting value with some of those life lessons you get from TED talks, self-improvement manifestos, and websites like that of the youthful entrepreneur Scott H Young:
I'm a recent university graduate, writer, programmer, traveler and avid reader of interesting things. For the last six years I've been experimenting to find out how to get more from life.
Scott has written these over 700 articles on a single idea, not to mention an alarming number of books and a TED talk on video you could order from the website—that's a virtually unparalleled productivity—and David Brooks is understandably impressed. Scott has discovered, for example, that it's possible to draw really scientific-looking graphs in contrasting shapes, which proves that sometimes after you practice doing something hard for a really long time, like being a concert violinist, it suddenly gets easy to make transcendent improvements in your technique, and sometimes, like when you've been skating for decades in the gig of writing glib little 800-word essays, it gets horribly difficult, and if you know the difference you'll probably be less disappointed in yourself in the latter case.
It gets easy.
It gets hard.
Isn't that amazing? And indeed you could imagine graphs in other shapes as well. Try it yourself! David Brooks did:
other domains follow a valley-shaped curve. You have to go down initially before you can go up. The experience of immigrating to a new country can be like this; you have to start at the bottom as you learn a new society before you can make your way upward. Moral progress is like this, too. You have to go down and explore your own failures before you can conquer them. You have to taste humiliation before you can aspire toward excellence.
Note how, as well, Brooks describes the graphs in prose instead of merely reproducing them, allowing him to weave an entire column around the concept. He's drastically improving his productivity already!

Not that he agrees with Scott at every single point, notably that "understanding other people—and yourself" bit. Brooks remains unalterably opposed to understanding himself:
Finally, this focus on growth structures takes your eyes off yourself. The crucial thing is not what traits you intrinsically possess. The crucial questions are: What is the structure of your domain? Where are you now on the progress curve? How are you interacting with the structures of the field? The crucial answers to those questions are not found in the mirror.
When I first started noticing this phobia against self-knowledge, I didn't believe in it: it seemed to me like an accident of bad writing, not what he intended to say and presumably not what he thought, and I made fun of it because it was so ridiculous. But it is becoming clear that there's more to it than that: he's serious. Perhaps the humiliation he endured as he was following his U-shaped moral progress curve (I wonder when that was?) showed him something he couldn't bear.

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