“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.”
– Oscar Wilde
Here’s your midweek newsletter — a gentle nudge to make your week more interesting, thoughtful and productive.
150% in One Thing or 80% in All The Things?
Last week had me recall a lecture by Dr Jordan Peterson that I watched back when I was in the first leg of college. In the talk, he argues that there have been geniuses – people with exceptional talent – throughout history. He says that these people are so passionate about that one thing that they do – which can be anything – that they often have trouble caring about any other aspects of their lives.
He goes on to suggest that you have two choices when you’re starting out: you can either be exceptional at one thing or be above average in all aspects of your life. No options are wrong. Both are entirely right. It’s just that you need to make a choice. This coincides with the Four Burners Theory which talks about the four quadrants in life as four burners – family, friends, health, work. It argues that since the gas is limited, to burn one burner at a higher flame, you will have to turn down or even turn the others off.
Throughout history, you’ll see people of exceptional talent be portrayed as workaholics failing to prioritise relationships and just lacking in some other areas. Popular media portrays genius-level intellect as those without any social skills at all. Pick any character from any movie or book. You can barely come across an expert who isn’t portrayed with a major blind spot or flaw.
So, when I saw the lecture for the first time all those years ago, I picked the latter option. It was my general inclination. The reasoning I put behind it then was that I thought if I tried hard and pushed myself, I may be able to reach a 100% in some things but to choose 150% in one thing was discounting all that possibility.
Lately, I’ve felt a bit awry about my decision then and thought process today. This was because of several factors, but I think last night, I concluded that inner discussion with the help of a friend. The thing is, it’s not a one-and-done decision. You can choose again, given you are ready to start again, which is another issue altogether. However, the possibility of oscillating between those two extremes is where, I feel, life happens.
In some phases, you go headfirst for something you want. You spend years on that idea and that project, not caring about anything else in the world, no matter how lucrative. In others, you like the balance of it all. The key is always to choose and then, keep re-evaluating whether it still fits with what you want. If you feel your mindset isn’t working for you today, you can always change it to the other side.
P.S. I’m still at the 80% side of things if you were curious.
The Power of the Pause
Lately, I’ve stopped to think about how there are two ways to act whenever something happens: react or respond. It’s no new concept, but for me, I have only started trying my hand with this consciously.
Oddly enough, this happened when I was scrolling through Instagram and saw a post I felt was rather unnecessary. It was just the usual social media complaining about how everything is wrong and whatnot. Then, as I felt the thought turning into mild irritation, I decided to close the app and breathe twice.
I opened it again and scrolled down. The power of the pause is simple. It turns your reaction into a response. Reactions are knee-jerk, in the moment, and come from a place where you don’t understand yourself. A response is often from a tiny moment of clear thought.
To give yourself that moment: pause.
Reading List: The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
“Perhaps one never seems so much at one’s ease as when one has to play a part.”
While I read it last year, I’ve lately been thinking about how today’s world is all about the Picture of Dorian Gray, in a reverse sense. Most people have profiles where they project a certain image – filtered photos, grandiose opinions, correct speech.
It’s in the background where they hold all sorts of conversations with their friends and family, often in direct disagreement with what they portray. They don’t look exactly how they appear to look online. It’s almost like, Dorian Gray would be the most genuine person today, in some sense.
In any case, since this book was on my mind, I decided this to be the recommendation. Let me know how you find it.
Quick Update On Nudge › How
I wrote about the Tutorial Purgatory of Life last week on the blog. The idea of the Tutorial Purgatory comes from when I was learning to code. It’s when programming enthusiasts get caught in the spiral of tutorials, exercises and whatnot but never actually stop to apply things what they’ve learned.
I tried applying that concept with self-help, and life, in general. If you feel you’re stuck with podcasts, books and other sources of great information but you don’t think you’re applying enough, I’ve added some ideas on how to break out of it!
I hope this added some value to your week. Stay safe, stay focused, and I’ll talk to you next week.