“Everything which is in anyway beautiful is beautiful in itself, and terminates in itself, not having praise as part of itself. Neither worse, then, nor better is a thing made by being praised. I affirm this also of the [common or ordinary], for example, material things and works of art. That which is really beautiful has no need of anything; not more than law, not more than truth, not more than benevolence or modesty. Which of these things is beautiful because it is praised, or spoiled by being blamed? Is such a thing as an emerald made worse than it was, if it is not praised? Or gold, ivory, purple, a lyre, a little knife, a flower, a shrub?”
by Marcus Aurelius in Meditations
I often hear people throw around the quote “by Einstein” that says, “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” Not only am I pretty sure this wasn’t said by Einstein, the statement itself is not even remotely true. People just like to throw it around to back up their own agenda. But it’s stupid. Here’s why. Circumstances change. Time of day. Time of year. Qualities of the items you are using or acting against. Your strength, skill, experience, and wisdom. The characteristics of the other actors involved. Here are many examples that contradict this ridiculous statement:
- running for president
- running a marathon
- running a red light
- running with the bulls
- driving a golf ball, hitting a pitched baseball, or doing a backflip off a diving board
- investing in stocks, even the same stock
- looking in a microscope at a snowflake
- looking at a specific spot in the sky
- betting the same number on the roulette wheel
by Panos Papamichael
Any pursuit, be it physical or cognative, that supports high levels of skill can also generate a sense of sacredness. To elaborate this point let’s jump from the old fashion examples of carving wood or smithing metals to the modern example of computer programming. Consider this quote from the coding prodigy Santiago Gonzales describing his work to an interviewer: “Beautiful code is short and concise so if you were to give that code to another programmer he would say ‘Oh, that’s well written code.’ It’s much like as if you were writing a poem.” […] “The Pragmatic Programmer”, a well regarded book in the computer programming field makes this connection between code and old style craftsmanship more directly by quoting the medieval quarry workers creed “We who cut mere stones must always be envisioning cathedrals.” The book then elaborates that computer programmers must see their work in the same way. Within the overall structure of a project, there is always room for individuality and craftsmanship. […] You don’t, in other words, need to be toiling in an open air barn for your efforts to be considered the type of craftsmanship that can generate […] meaning. […] Throughout most of human history to be a blacksmith or a wheelwright wasn’t glamorous. But this doesn’t matter, as the specifics of the work are irrelevant. The meaning uncovered by such efforts is due to the skill and appreciation inherent in craftsmanship, not the outcomes of their work. Put another way a wooden wheel is not noble but its shaping can be. The same applies to knowledge work. You don’t need a rarefied job, you need instead a rarefied approach to your work.
by Cal Newport, from Deep Work
To answer the question “Who are you to do this?”, you first have to get out of your head. I use this phrase “out of your head” because that’s where its easy to get stuck. Somewhere between our hearts and our minds is an internal dialog, a running commentary on what we think and feel and believe. It’s the voices in your head that speak doubt and insecurity and fear and anxiety. Like a tape that’s stuck on repeat these destructive messages will drain an extraordinary amount of energies if you aren’t clear and focused and grounded. It’s important to embrace several truths about yourself and those around you, beginning with this one: “Who you aren’t isn’t interesting.” You have a list of all the things you aren’t, the things you can’t do, things you tried and didn’t go well. Regrets, mistakes that haunt you, moments when you crawled home in humiliation. For many of us this list is a source of head games usually involving the words “not enough”. Not smart enough, not talented enough, not disciplined enough, not educated enough, beautiful, thin, popular, or hard working enough. You can fill in the blank.
Here is the truth about those messages: “They are not interesting”.
What you haven’t done, where you didn’t go to school, what you haven’t accomplished, who you don’t know and what you are scared of, simply aren’t interesting.
“I am not very good at math. If I get too many numbers I start to space out.” See? Not interesting.
If you focus on who you aren’t or what you don’t have or where you haven’t been or skills or talents or resources you’re convinced aren’t yours, precious energy slips through your fingers that you could use to do something with that blinking line (the cursor).
by Rob Bell, How to Be Here
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
— Theodore Roosevelt
“The blinking line [the cursor on a blank screen] can be brutal.
Because the blinking line doesn’t just taunt you with all the possibilities that are before you, the potential, all that you sense could exist but isn’t yet because you haven’t created it. The blinking line also asks the question:
Who are you to do this?
And that question can be paralyzing.”
By Rob Bell, in How to be Here
“The world is still constantly testing us. It asks: Are you worthy? Can you get past the things that inevitably fall in your way? Will you stand up and show us what you’re made of?”
By Ryan Holiday, in The Obstacle Is the Way