March 31, 2022
 min read

Mind Macros 10: Fixing procrastination, enhancing creativity, and amor fati

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Hello, friend.

Welcome to another issue of Mind Macros - I hope you find something of value.

Food for Thought

1. Amor fati

Amor fati is a Latin phrase that translates to “love of fate,” a notable concept in the work of Friedrich Nietzsche, the 19th-century German philosopher, cultural critic, and writer who profoundly influenced modern literature and thought. Nietzsche believed that reaching our potential lies in our willingness to accept fate:

"My formula for greatness in a human being is amor fati: that one wants nothing to be different, not forward, not backward, not in all eternity. Not merely bear what is necessary, still less conceal it—all idealism is mendacity in the face of what is necessary—but love it." — From Dionysian-Dithyrambs by Friedrich Nietzsche

Nietzsche did not consider fate a predetermined plan authored by some outside force. To him, amor fati embodied a world that is continually becoming, without an imperative regarding what should be. Amor fati is an enthusiastic acceptance of necessity. This acceptance became captured in a term Nietzsche wrote in his book The Gay Science, “yes-sayer.” In part, a yes-sayer is someone who refuses to edit the past, embraces the present and accepts the future.

Amor fati is often criticized for its literal translation. Translated, the maxim means “love your fate,” not “accept your fate.” However, amor fati is presented as an ideal, a goal to strive for. Unwavering gratitude is not the purpose of each moment in our lives; such an attitude merely suppresses emotion. We will face moments that we must merely bear, others that we must accept, and some that we must embrace with sincere gratitude.

The concept of amor fati may have been coined by Nietzsche, but the roots are derived from the Greek school of philosophy, Stoicism. Two thousand years ago, Marcus Aurelius, known as the "Philosopher King," wrote:

"You have power over your mind - not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength."

We cannot control fate, but we can control how we interpret it.

2. Slowing down enhances creativity

“It’s impossible to pay proper attention to your life if you are hurtling along at lightning speed. When your job is to see things other people don’t, you have to slow down enough that you can actually look. In an age obsessed with speed, slowing down requires special training.

"After art critic Peter Clothier discovered meditation, he realized how little he was actually looking at art: 'I would often catch myself spending more time with the wall label in a museum than with the painting I was supposed to be looking at!' Inspired by the slow food and slow cooking movements, he started leading 'One Hour/One Painting' sessions in galleries and museums, in which he invited participants to gaze at a single artwork for one full hour. Slow looking caught on, and now several museums across the country hold slow looking events. The ethos is summed up on the Slow Art Day website: 'When people look slowly . . . they make discoveries.'” — From Keep Going by Austin Kleon

Slowing down is an act of rebellion in a society that speeds up by the day.

Slowing down and approaching life with a deeper awareness is a privilege, but it's also a valuable way to generate ideas.

Creative work requires moving slowly enough to see connections. Steve Jobs said in an interview with Wired that creativity involves connecting disparate pieces of knowledge:

"Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn't really do it; they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That's because they were able to connect experiences they've had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they'd had more experiences, or they have thought more about their experiences than other people."

Our minds need periods of silence to connect things, and this is why we tend to have our most creative ideas in the shower or right before bed. These may be the only times when we're not distracted by some form of media.

I wrote an article exploring this concept further: “Three-Step Framework for Accelerating Creative Thought.”

Practical Advice

1. Planck knowledge vs chauffeur knowledge

“I frequently tell the apocryphal story about how Max Planck, after he won the Nobel Prize, went around Germany giving the same standard lecture on the new quantum mechanics. Over time, his chauffeur memorized the lecture and said, 'Would you mind, Professor Planck, because it's so boring to stay in our routine, if I gave the lecture in Munich and you just sat in front wearing my chauffeur's hat?' Planck said, 'Why not?' And the chauffeur got up and gave this long lecture on quantum mechanics. After which a physics professor stood up and asked a perfectly ghastly question. The speaker said, 'Well, I'm surprised that in an advanced city like Munich I get such an elementary question. I'm going to ask my chauffeur to reply.'

“In this world I think we have two kinds of knowledge: One is Planck knowledge, that of the people who really know. They've paid the dues, they have the aptitude. Then we've got chauffeur knowledge. They have learned to prattle the talk. They may have a big head of hair. They often have fine timbre in their voices. They make a big impression. But in the end what they've got is chauffeur knowledge masquerading as real knowledge.” — From Poor Charlie's Almanack by Peter D. Kaufman

While we should aim to cultivate Planck knowledge in ourselves, we also need to discern it in others. By choosing to listen to someone, we're subconsciously accepting that they have something to teach us. We may be looking for insights from an interesting perspective or a certain degree of experience.

Learning from others is helpful, but what if they have chauffeur knowledge masquerading as Planck knowledge? The inaccurate information won't just prevent us from learning; it could set our education back months or even years.

​​2. Fixing procrastination

"Make a mental habit of every time you procrastinate; try to recognize that you are feeling some desire not to do that task or a stronger desire to do something else. You might even want to ask yourself which feeling is more powerful in that moment—is the problem more that you have a strong urge to do a different activity (e.g., eat something, check your phone, take a nap) or that you have a strong urge to avoid the thing you should be doing because you imagine it will be uncomfortable, painful, or frustrating? This awareness is necessary for progress to be made, so if you feel as though procrastination is a weakness of yours, make building this awareness your first priority before you try to fix the problem." — From Ultralearning by Scott Young

We can overcome procrastination with practice. Young recommends keeping a procrastination journal of sorts to aid in spotting the activities that cause us to spiral into the unproductive habit. By noting what drives us to begin our cycle of procrastination, we can better plan to prevent it from occurring in the future.

Designing procrastination activities is an intentional way of controlling the habit. If we know a particular task often causes us to fall into our procrastination tendencies, why not set an activity in advance to do while we're procrastinating? We could download some YouTube videos we've been meaning to watch, leave a fiction book near our workspace or materials for one of our hobbies. The idea is to design our environment to aid in directing the course of action we wish to encourage. Procrastination is not something that can be eliminated immediately; instead, it is more realistic to understand its cause and to control the parameters within which it operates.

Only by becoming aware of our behaviors can we begin to alter them. As Peter Drucker once said, what gets measured gets managed.

Quotes to Ponder

1. Archilochus on how our preparation shapes our character:

“We do not rise to the level of our expectations. We fall to the level of our training.”

2. Charlie Munger on the importance of learning how to learn:

“Just as civilization can progress only when it invents the method of invention, you can progress only when you learn the method of learning.”

​Thank you for reading,

Matthew Vere

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