A while back I picked up Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s The Bed of Procrustes (affiliate link), which is a collection of “political and practical aphorisms” that I intend to work through slowly.
I’ve been listening to the other books in the Incerto series in audiobook format, but I’ve opted to go for a more traditional Kindle read of the book, because aphorisms tend to be dense in information and I want to digest them slowly, not listen to them rapid-fire.
There’s also something to be said for this being a conversation. I’m not the only source of wisdom here, so if you have something to add feel free to leave a comment and I’ll check it out. Part of Taleb’s whole point is humility, and humility begins for me with accepting that I might miss or be in error during central parts of my interpretation.
Also, I’m not so naive and self-involved as to think that this is tremendously important, but it might be interesting. I’m treating this kind of like Marcus Aurelius’ reflections, though I am not necessarily a Marcus Aurelius myself. I merely publish them because part of living unafraid is leaving nothing of yourself secret.
I’m going to start with just a single aphorism today, but I’m going to establish a sort of simple formula for these: the aphorism itself, my own take on what it means, how I think it has or hasn’t been applying in my life, and an action to take.
So, without further ado, the first aphorism of the series:
Success is becoming in middle adulthood what you dreamed to be in late childhood. “The rest comes from loss of control.”
I think that one of the interesting things here is how it’s somewhat vague. We all seem to have a sense on what being “middle aged” is, but middle adulthood could mean other things. Likewise, late childhood reflects a sort of ambiguous state: if we consider people young adults once they’ve started steps toward their vocation, this could actually have quite an age range (14-26, or maybe even older), but I think here that Taleb’s sort of referring to the age in which one is not yet responsible for themselves but is beginning to be capable of looking out for themselves, the independent age when most people start to get jobs or take up serious hobbies and academic studies beyond what their parents or society require.
Middle adulthood is also an interesting concept, and I think that there’s a good definition of this as the age at which you’ve “settled down” and acquired responsibility. This could probably take the form of settling down with a family for most people. I’m sure that one could add additional criteria ad infinitum if they wanted to, so I won’t. I don’t think that this is necessarily a numerical age so much as a particular stage of life, and is therefore dependent on all sorts of things.
I’m honestly not sure where to put this in my life.
I’m a game-designer, but I’m not doing it with my all. I’m also writing books, which I should maybe eventually finish (Bad Kyle, bad! Get back to work!) but which are bringing me joy.
When I was a kid in 8th grade, I wanted to be a game designer. I think I even dressed up as Richard Garriott on career day, even though I don’t know that I’ve ever played any of his games seriously. I remember this because in the sort of thing that teachers write to their students, my teacher wrote that she couldn’t wait for her kids to play a game that I made.
Throughout high-school, I definitely wanted to become either a game designer or a writer (I remember sketching out designs for a game that became Orchestra that became Street Rats on the back of a senior-year math test), and although I was originally planning to go into pharmacy it was more of a financial decision than a life-goal decision.
Now, in practice, I think I’m decently successful as a game designer in the sense that I’ve been growing and pushing myself, but I haven’t made a living at it yet. I’m definitely not at a point where that’s financially feasible.
But there’s an interesting thing here with the final sentence: “The rest comes from lack of control.”
I think that there’s maybe some of that in my life. I’m something of a lay Stoic. I assume, based on my limited success which seems to exceed that of other amateur writers/game designers, that I have some ability and affinity for the practice, but I definitely can be held back by my wasting of time and my current difficulties with sticking to my projects.
Spend more time, more consistently, moving toward my goals.
Consider what elements of my life are disordered and lack control: figure out if it is possible to bring them under control or if the chaos is something that can be excised entirely.
Engage in behavior that is in alignment with me making my goals something more feasible. If I cannot make a living as a game designer and writer, I need to figure out a profession that interferes with that as minimally as possible, or which offers me the same satisfaction of being able to create and bring to life.