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The Tinkered Mind
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January 24th, 2019
It’s possible to shove all sorts of food onto a fork, but for the most part, it’s a single-serving bite-sizing tool. You take a single bite of this, a single bite of that. Maybe some sauce comes along for the ride. But for the most part, it’s a one-at-a-time endeavor.
Now picture a toddler trying to eat a bowl of spaghetti. It’s just a mess, and a fork is something that’s more useful as an object launched across the room rather than as something to manipulate food.
Even in these contrasted methods of eating, we have a subtle nod to ways of thinking and operating that either limit or liberate.
There’s the old idiom used to describe a person of many interests, someone described as “having a finger in every pie.”
Imagine this literally for a moment. Ten fingers, ten different pies. Ten different flavors.
Compare it to a single fork.
Even in this seemingly banal image, we have a ripe metaphor for optionality. Our idiomatic description of fingers in pies hints at some kind of awareness of this on the part of our culture.
That career oriented individual who inhabits single positions one after another, switching either through promotion or company change is strangely evocative of eating a meal with a fork. One bite after another. Single bites of flavor, one following the other.
We might now switch to the individual who spends an hour or two every night after work developing a little side hustle.
Often this arises from a convergence of an interesting hobby and a concurrent exposure to lightweight business models. In the age of the internet, it’s become exceedingly easy to set up a business with minimal start up expenses.
Such a side-hustling individual might be said to have a taste of two pies.
The funny difference between creative pursuits and a career job is that we have no idea where a creative pursuit might go, whereas a career job seems more predictable and stable, it has an absolute upper limit that cannot be breached in the way that an independently owned creative pursuit can. Our fear-based instant reaction to such a point would most certainly go along the lines of “ya but there’s no guarantee that a creative pursuit will yield anything.. it could just fall flat.”
This is actually false. Even if such efforts don’t yield anything that is observably meaningful, like cash in the bank, the experience of putting one’s self through such motions is perhaps more valuable because of how such an experience effects the psychology of the individual who makes the attempt. Companies send their people off on development retreats, which is perhaps funny if we compare a week of conventional hotel living and conferences, or something edgy and outdoor with the experience of living lean and working hard on something totally new.
There’s also the fact that anyone can get fired from any career job at pretty much any time. This quaint little fact is something that we like to conveniently ignore. But if we backtrack through the reasoning here, the initial ‘ya but there’s no guarantee’ statement starts to look quite nonsensical.
Investigating why there’s a tendency to proffer such poor logic will quickly unearth a flimsy emotional reason. We’re scared of uncertainty and venturing into that unknown arena. It’s as simple as that: a little fear.
If this fear can be fully processed, by either diving into it like a messy toddler or by dissecting it through seemingly rational means, bite by bite, then we come to a counter-intuitive conclusion:
It’s best to throw away the fork and get a finger in as many different pies as we can reasonably keep track of.
Even the great Isaac Newton had no idea if his development of calculus would be more valuable than his efforts regarding alchemy and theology, but he was curious enough to have a finger in all three pies. Imagine if he had solely focused on alchemy? He would have gone down unremembered in history as just another crack-pot who thought he could turn lead into gold if he just kept tinkering with it. Instead he also spent some time tinkering with numbers and gave birth to one of the greatest tools of humanity.
At the very least, having a few fingers in a few different pies can give you a better context regarding your opinion about your main meal. One taste of a better pie and who knows what curiosity and creativity it might spark in you.
Life is a buffet of opportunity. Best to throw away the fork and taste as much as you can.