2020-08-02

This week I had a ton of anxiety.

I won't write about the root cause, yet I felt that it was important to recognize this, because A) it makes me feel better to do so and B) if there's something on my mind and I don't write about it - well, that's a bit inauthentic and these notes are supposed to be authentic.

Which is a good segue into this week's first topic - [[Authenticity]]. But before we do that, I'd like to update you that I have indeed conquered last week's challenge. The [[Vue]] plugin for Feather is out here!

Authenticity

Being authentic on the internet is hard. When anyone can see what you've posted, you must proceed with some degree of caution. The fact that I started these notes by redacting the root cause of my anxiety is an example of me exercising that caution.

"Cancel culture" has revealed how simple it is to weaponize someone's past comments against them on the internet. Anything you say can and will be used against. You have the right to remain silent. But [[cancel culture]] isn't what I want to focus on today - maybe another time.

Rather, I want to talk about the inner challenge of being authentic online. The challenge of finding your voice in the face of fear - the fear of being perceived as "less than perfect".

Most of us want to be [[perfect]] online. Not in the sense that we have no flaws, but more so that we want to invoke admiration in others. I want others to be like "oh man, I think Phil is great. He's thoughtful, original, etc" and I suspect most others want something to that effect.

But what I've found is that aiming for perfection tends to lead to two outcomes:

  1. Nothing
  2. Your work becomes performative

In the first case, you never publish, for fear of not being perfect. And in the second, your work sounds off - forced.

David Perell has an interesting take on this:

Most people are bad writers, but excellent text messagers.

Their writing is bad because they try to sound smart once they open Microsoft Word.

But when they text, they write with clarity and enthusiasm.

If you’re stuck, write like you’re sending an important text message.

https://twitter.com/david_perell/status/1240836363190222848?s=20

Performative work is cringeworthy, even if the underlying work is valuable. It lacks voice.

So is the solution to simply "write with voice"? I don't think so. Voice isn't something you turn on or off. Voice is nurtured, and not just by you, but by engaging with others. You reflect on your style, you evaluate what elements of your work you like, and what you don't. You put it in front of others and you listen to what they say. Voice is a beautiful thing - if writing is a form of self expression, then writing with voice is prose that has expressed the self.

The problem isn't that someone has "voice" and simply needs to choose to use it. The problem is more that your voice needs to be nurtured.

Instead, it's a better goal to produce work that is interesting to yourself. With a low bar for quality. Giving yourself permission to write about what you want, without regard for how it's perceived will give you wings.

See, this is why I write these notes. This concept is half baked.

Two Energies

Earlier this week, I experienced a sharp turn in my energy levels. Monday and Tuesday were great. Then, something happened on Wednesday night.

My ability to think abstract thoughts and generate any semblance of creative work left my brain. I felt like [[Cinderella]] when the clock struck 12, or that movie [[Limitless]] when the Adderall++ pills began to wear off. The magic faded away and thereafter, I was forced to welcome the reign of tiredness.

This happens to me a lot. I seem to operate in two forms, one in which ideas and productivity comes naturally - and another in which everything is a struggle. I don't drink caffeine, and maybe that's part of my problem, but I find that these "two energies" and the transition between them feels a lot like the [[boom and bust]] cycle of the stock market.

The [[bull]] market run up to feeling good is rooted in strong personal [[wellness]] fundamentals (good sleep, exercise, diet, and psychological care), but as the good times roll on, those fundamentals slowly (or quickly) fall by the wayside. Things continue to go well, but a reckoning is awaiting. Lack of sleep. Burnout. Anxiety. A crash. The [[bear]] falls into a sudden hibernation.

So that's kind of where I'm at right now. Wednesday was the bust in my boom and bust energy cycle, and the last few days, things went from bad to worse, and here I am trying to re-invest in the fundamentals to get myself firing on all cylinders again.

Multiple Discovery

So I was going to publish these notes on Sunday, but because I didn't get to it, I thought I'd throw in a bonus this morning (Monday 08-03).

One idea that popped up on my radar last week (a couple times) was the idea of [[multiple discovery]], or the idea that an invention or a discovery happens at the same time at different places in the world. We often cite Leibniz and Newton discovering Calculus or Wallace and Darwin discovering Evolution as stories of when this occurs in science. Of course, the list of this is enormous:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_multiple_discoveries

There's a similar phenomenon in Hollywood, called "Twin films": https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twin_films

And it's not just Hollywood and Science - this happens ALL the time in business. From billionaire entrepreneurs who both happen to have side businesses that produce rockets (Bezos/Musk) to your average SaaS product that has dozens of competitors, multiple discovery is a very human thing.

So why does this happen in so many disciplines? One might be tempted to say that we're less original than we think we are - and I think that would be 100% correct. But it goes a little further than that. I hypothesize there are a LIMITED set of things that CAN be discovered/invented/built at any given point.

I have zero experience in science and film so I'll refrain from making any generalizations there. But I believe that when it comes to business, there are a limited number of solutions that the market is able to accept at any given moment.

It depends on the skills of the consumers (do they know how to use Smartphones, do they know how to type on a keyboard?) and the taste of the market. There's an element of fashion to business, and I wish we'd understand that better.

So on the consumer side, there are a limited number of things they will respond positively to. And on the entrepreneur side, people have extremely similar information diets. So the space of "valid ideas" is actually very small, leading to plenty of collisions.

Last week, I tweeted out this idea:

That idea you have? There's pretty much a 100% chance someone else has the exact same one and is executing on it TODAY

https://twitter.com/pliao39/status/1288900847309664256?s=20

And I believe that we now live in a world that's going to become ultra competitive. Get used to it. In a world with billions of humans, all coming online, multiple discovery will be the norm in everything (if it wasn't already).