Hedonic Treadmills, Seth Godin's 7 levers, & Murakami on writing

The High Five - Edition #18

Hi friends,

I welcome all the new subscribers of ‘The High Five’. I am really glad you found this insightful and decided to subscribe. Thank you very much.

In this week’s edition, I am writing about some perspectives by two eminent writers - Seth Godin and Haruki Murakami. I also have a podcast recommendation for you all, which I think is an interesting one because it discusses about that one thing that we all chase - Happiness. So let’s get into 18th edition of ‘The High Five’.

Life: Seth Godin's advice to reinvent yourself

I am a bit late to the party - I discovered Seth Godin only recently. But since then, I have become an admirer of his writing. I found this particular article thought-provoking because Seth challenges the fundamental paradigm on which the world built a culture of working for a job, target a salary and just flow with the mandates dictated by organizations that thrive on economic currents. The culture of conformism. Seth believes that we all have been brainwashed into believing that the best way to earn a living is to have a job and blindly follow the norms. And the new era, characterized by the internet and social media, is just holding the mirror to the brainwashing and is paving the way for a new world - of opportunities. With new ways of interacting and making a living, the whole paradigms are changing.

Don’t use the tools of today to support your effort to do yesterday’s job better.

Seth believes that more people today have more leverage to spread ideas and make an impact, than at any other time in history. And the key to reinventing yourself lies in making time, using intellect and accessing the right ideas. Seth lists 7 levers, which might sound simple, but as you reflect about them, you will realize that the outcomes of those levers are bound to have a deep impact. His 7 levers are:

  1. Connect: It’s a crack in the wall between you and the rest of the world. We moved from growing up in isolation to a present and future that is increasingly connected. This changes everything… if we let it.

  2. Be Generous: There is a new 'generosity' economy that's gaining ground. An economy that's very tribal, where individuals share things (knowledge, connections etc.) and support one another. And this economy rewards people who create and participate in circles of gifts. Talented individuals form communities and connect and create a movement, of ideas that deliver value.

  3. Make Art: Over time, art has come to be defined as an act of creation, which is a very traditional perspective. Modern thinkers view art as a form of self-expression. And we did have writers like Ayn Rand, who held that a work of art embodies a viewpoint-a content or theme-about issues much broader than the specific concretes involved, issues such as man's nature and place in the world. Seth places art at a very fundamental level of human connection. He views art as interaction with others - something that changes everything.

    “Art is the very human act of creating the uncreated, of connecting with another person at a human level”.

  4. Acknowledge the Lizard: By Lizard, Seth means - Skepticism. The self-doubt. The internal resistance we have in our brain, that worries about safety, reputation, security, fame, acceptability and derision. The resistance that is hell-bent on making us comply and conform. This lizard, Seth says, has been an ally of the brainwashing. Ignoring the voice of scepticism is critical in doing the work. Acknowledge the lizard so that you can ignore it.

  5. Ship: This attributes to the ability to make things happen. It could be an individual or an organization. The key to the reinvention of who you are is to become someone who ships. The goal is to have the rare skill of actually getting things done, making them happen and creating outcomes that people seek out.

  6. Fail: If there is one thing the silicon valley has done to turn the orthodoxy on merit upside down, it is putting a spotlight on ‘failures’ as a badge of honour. A key part of shipping is the ability to fail. And in a world that is connected, having the ability to handle failure gracefully - and in public - is going to be a building block.

  7. Learn: "When was the last time you met a lighthouse operator?" - Seth asks, making his point that only lighthouse operators have the luxury to remain static in their jobs. Every other job or nature of work is evolving and hence learning - literally every day - is a necessity today.

    “The opportunity of our time is to discard what you think you know and instead learn what you need to learn. Every single day”.

Happiness & Psychology: Our Pursuit of Happiness

I have a podcast recommendation this time. I guess I have already recommended NPR’s The Hidden Brain earlier. This episode, under the series ‘You 2.0’, has interesting insights on how we perceive happiness. Here, Shankar Vedantam interviews a psychologist - Elizabeth Dunn, exploring the strange relationship between happiness, experiences and material possessions. Elizabeth shares counter-perspectives on few known long-held orthodoxies such as: “experiences are more valuable than material possessions” (which could be true, but it isn’t the complete story). She talks about the concept of ‘hedonic treadmill’, which says that we get to whatever we have achieved, accomplished and acquired and the pleasure we derive out of them gradually diminishes. This is not to be confused with ambition for continuous growth, since hedonic treadmill is more about state of mind and happiness. It says that no matter how hard we try to get happier, we can't because we are on this treadmill.

Image credit: sarahlcomics.tumblr.com

So, how do we get off the hedonic treadmill? Elizabeth proposes we reset our happiness systems a little bit, at some points in our lives, by taking a break from the things that we like. The recipe for happiness involves figuring out how to reset ourselves a little bit so that we appreciate the things that we have started to take for granted. I think Covid-19 is one such instance, which made many of us reset our happiness systems a bit. While there is so much gloom due to the pandemic, it gave an opportunity to many a thinking mind to observe, reflect on, and see the areas, things, and elements of life that we have been taking for granted. This happiness reset, induced by a pandemic, made us confront some deeper questions. Now, the question is - can we frequently reset our systems, by ourselves?

Books & Running: Murakami’s thoughts on running, and writing.

I recently read that a university in Tokyo is building a public library, dedicated to Haruki Murakami. And it reminded me of, Murakami of course, but specifically this article on Murakami, which is about his thoughts on running. Did you know that he is a marathon runner? He even wrote a book titled - “What I talk about, when I talk about running?”. This article here, has some interesting takeaways from the book. Here are 5 perspectives of Murakami that resonated with me:

  1. It’s precisely because of the pain, precisely because we want to overcome that pain, that we can get the feeling, through this process, of really being alive—or at least a partial sense of it. Your quality of experience is based not on standards such as time or ranking, but on finally awakening to an awareness of the fluidity within action itself.

  2. After focus, the next most important thing for a novelist is, hands down, endurance. If you concentrate on writing three or four hours a day and feel tired after a week of this, you’re not going to be able to write a long work.

  3. Certain types of processes don’t allow for any variation. If you have to be part of that process, all you can do is transform—or perhaps distort—yourself through that persistent repetition, and make that process a part of your own.

  4. To be able to grasp something of value, sometimes you have to perform seemingly inefficient acts. But even activities that appear fruitless don’t necessarily end up so.

  5. Emotional hurt is the price a person has to pay in order to be independent.

A quote I pondered about this week: “By bringing the world together, social media is tearing the world apart” - Naval Ravikant

Food for thought: If attention is the new oil, what’s the price of our inattention, in our lives?

Did you ever hear the music by a band named Apocalyptica? They play metal, but on cellos, making the music an interesting blend of neoclassical metal. Try Reflections, which is a nice album.

If you liked this edition of ‘The High Five’ please share it with a friend who might like it too. Have a great week ahead.

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