In Antifragile, the sage Taleb teaches that the majority of life’s problems can be improved not by increasing but by decreasing. By reducing complexity instead of adding to it. Via Negativa.
This is very clear in the health advice given to a normal american slob. Usually stuff like cut out sodas, cut out sugars, cut out refined carbs, …. Many slobs can get great improvement just by cutting out, and not even have to worry about adding new activities or habits.
I can write an article on that but it’s really basic-bitch type advice you can get elsewhere. Here’s a quick list for those who like quick lists (junk food):
- Sleeping Problems? Remove the bed.
- Anxiety? Remove news.
- Relationships? Remove the relationship.
- Money problems? Stop spending.
- Work problems? Remove the job.
It’s actually pretty easy to get rid of these obvious cancers, but that is just the first step on the path. The real improvement begins when you start getting rid of things that conventional wisdom says are good. And further improvement comes from getting rid of even more things that you have learned are good.
So here’s how the path goes, using diet as an easy example again.
- Normal diet fed through culture and advertisement
- Remove the junk (soda,sugar,…)
- Replace that with good (meat, fats, veggies)
And then what usually happens is you become limited by the strict new diet, relying on it, beating yourself up for every misstep. Constantly searching for another .005% improvement with complete disregard to the law of diminishing returns.
Or you simply plateau and cease all improvement cause you’ve reached your peak (which, if it lasts longer than 24 hours, is the worst feeling ever).
So tell me, what is it you could remove next? Or do you think you removed enough that addition is warranted?
I’m not going to get into specific recommendations here. Life is too complex for anything except broad recommendations Removing your slavery to strict rules is the only constant via negativa.
We live our lives in these tiny boxes we create. I’m not talking about cars, cubicles or churches, but desiring specific end results, and expecting adherence to strict rules to get us there.
The world, the culture, the person are all dynamic systems with constant feedback loops.
Stop restricting that feedback and instead continually look for the bottlenecks you can remove to allow that process to work as designed.
We want to believe there’s light at the end of the tunnel. There isn’t. There’s just the tunnel. So slow down, embrace the darkness (randomness), feel the walls (accept your [current] limits), and carry on (carry on).