The Path to Enlightenment
I recently read this story on Austin Kleon's blog:
After a long and arduous journey, a young Japanese man arrived deep in the forest where the teacher of his choice was living in a small house he had made. When the student arrives the teacher was sweeping up the fallen leaves. Greeting his master, the young man received no greeting in return. And to all his questions, there were no replies. Realizing there was nothing he could do to get the teacher's attention, the student went to another part of the same forest and built himself a house. Years later, when he was sweeping up fallen leaves, he was enlightened. He then dropped everything, ran through the forest to his teacher, and said, "Thank you.". - John Cage, Silence
Whenever I'm stuck on a hard problem or I'm not sure what to do next, I've noticed that I go online looking for answers. What's the best sequence of exercises to gain muscle fast? What are the step-by-step guidelines for earning money? Should I take this job? How should I spend my time to become successful (whatever that means)?
The thing is, I don't think anyone knows. A lot of "successful" people just follow their intuition and hope for the best. Then, they package whatever happened into 100 tweet threads or e-books and market them as knowledge.
As Austin writes, looking for the perfect set of tools before we start a process robs us of the experience of finding our perfect set of tools.
This is not to say that we shouldn't follow well-meaning advice that could potentially save us time. But looking for advice should be a step taken only when it's absolutely torturous to continue doing what you're doing right now.
Want to run more? Put on your running clothes and go outside right after you brush your teeth. Don't buy a Fitbit until it's absolutely torturous to not have a Fitbit.
Want to make more money? Build and sell software at night and clean rugs on the weekend. Stop buying courses on how you should market your software until you have a product to market.
I guess the path to enlightenment is scrubbing the dirty dishes, debugging that gnarly piece of code, and sweeping up fallen leaves yourself.
Eventually, you can compile whatever happened into your own Twitter threads or e-books and sell them as knowledge 😉