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I’m currently reading the book Antifragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. It’s the kind of thing that for me is a “can’t put down,” and might make me look either like a nerdy loser or a real intellectual (whichever is worse) in cocktail party conversation. The author sort of predicted that big old financial crisis which impacted so many of our lives in ways big and small, and takes on a risk-management based critique of pretty much everything. He was a trader or some such before becoming a philosopher/professor of risk so what he’s saying is grounded in practice, at least in some way. I suggested tthe book to my Operations professor and he said that Taleb is arrogant. I very much agree, but ti’s nice to see someone take on the establishment, invent his own rhetorical style, and kind of give shape to some of the things I was just getting a vague intuition of in my own life. One of the main things he takes on is the idea that goal-directed projects are more succesful than mere tinkering, which gives me some heart for my own life. He also advocates the life of action as part of a reflective life, which encouraged me and made me not feel like the ultimate sell out by going to business school. [I guess we all find things that make us feel better about the choices we have made- confirmation basis- though I do my best to thoroughly evaluate things, even post mortem, and when I don’t end up worrying myself sick and annoying everyone around me by not just plowing through and sticking with my decisions. Maybe being a normal person is overrated though. Because I’d rther be wondering and writing and doing that kidn of stuff than doing anything else, but sure as heck avoiding work gives me a lot to write about ! And luckily I’m catching a little bit of a break tonight and hopefully will be slightly ahead of the game, planted as I am in this cafe and having decompressed a bit already.]

In any case, it seems to me that philosophy and living the well-examined (but hopefully not too-examined monkey mind head’s on fire ) life should go together. And ultimately it’s much nobler to scorn money you already have than to say poverty is virtuous because you are poor and don’t “have what it takes” to make money. He talks about how it’s better for artists to be financially independent of their art and I have to agree. I’ve wracked my brain for ways to do stuff I really wanted and turn a penny but haven’t hit on any that didn’t make me feel squeamish, though I don’t think there’s anything wrong with art to sell. I’m definitely not in the business of judging anyone else just trying to figure things out for myself and what works for me.

Strategy professors seem to have a philosophical bent. They include lines of poetry in their introductions and convey a certain amount of erudition. If they are teaching, they are doing so because they like it, not because they can’t find anything else to do and have probably taken a financial loss, or rather, are not making as much money as they possibly could. Such is true of most b school profs, and I feel that it gives them credibility in a way that other instructors who have only worked in academia lack.

This Taleb book takes on the whole notion of academia even in science ever doing anything productive for society, and the fact that sometimes the cure is worse than the disease, especially in economics. Besides the fact that this is all intellectually intriguing, the practical benefits on a personal level seem fairly clear-you don’t need a theory to be successful, and having one probably hinders you. Also my whole dream of creating my own utopian vision is probably not even the service to humanity that I envisioned, particularly if it’s not grounded in some kind of practical knowledge. So I feel a bit better about the path I have chosen- I genuinely think that outside of learning how to be a researcher, I’m coming close to my limit of how much classroom knowledge I can take in and digest advantageously. It became grossly apparent to me how inadequate good grades were to getting ajob, and hence doing something productive. There is certainly a link but it’s a pretty indirect one- it’s the person’s abilities and commitment that will make the difference.

I’m trying to believe that I have something to offer the world, particularly the world of paid work. I’m trying to build my confidence and have some faith that the risks I’ve made- particularly in getting more education- will paid off, since at least busienss school doesn’t seem very much like an end in itself at this point, much as I like my classmates.  heck, I probably wouldn’t have that much good stuff to write about if I just lounged in my pajamas all day and faced no stressors and caused no growth.

I thought about trying to relax for a while to try to figure stuff out, but I think the answers can only come in the thick of things. Not to mention, I just don’t have much time to be truly relaxed. I was also beating myself up for not getting enough done and feeling like whatever I did I would never feel satisfied, and I’m going to leave that paralyzing self criticism behind. It’s just not healthy and it’s not productive either. So I don’t have a master plan- I don’t needone. And more importantly, I will learn to accept my best and give my best. Recently, it’s felt like I only had 20% of my full will power and capacity.  I’m getting back up there, and I think my capacity will also improve. Right now, I’d say I’m at about 65% and that makes a huge difference. Setting a timelimit on how much work I’m going to do helps too. So does procrastinating productively by doing another task. And taking Taleb’s point that procrastinating is nature’s way of showing us what’s unessential, because you don’t procrastinate running away from a dinosaur! (not that dinosaurs and humans concurrently roamed the earth)

I also bought a new backpack today which should literally take a bit of the load off.

But really it comes down to the fact that I need to believe I can do it- that I can handle both success and failure, and that somehow, things will work out. This is really hard. It’s freeing to realize I don’t need a big picture grand purpose, and I can work for some kind of extrinsic motivation without a goal in mind. I can just accept that business school is what it is and that’s where I am right now, it seems the best chocie given the information I have and the best I can do is all I can do after all.

But yeah, I can’t be unhappy and depressed and unmotivated all the time. It’s bad for my waistline, my health, my productivity, and general self esteem as well as just not making me happy. I thought that unhappiness was a signal I needed to make a change, but maybe that change is more with me than with my environment, and I need to consciously believe things will work out instead of constantly wondering how. I need to discipline my mind and look at all of this as practice.

Maybe school work and looking for a job, while important, are ust fodder for my real work.

And I need a break from all this philosophizing too!

As well as a little good old fashioned faith.

Namaste,

MJ

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