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September 4th, 2020
We wait in rapt and growing anticipation for months, even years for the movie, the book, the epic vacation. There’s an aspect of human psychology, clearly rooted in dopamine and the substantia nigra that infuses waiting with a wanting that is often more intense than what comes when the long wait is over.
The intensity of this experience is something we can all relate to. But is it something we can also appropriate for other means? Can we get this excited about work? For the vast majority of people the answer is a disgusted and emphatic NO! This inability to get excited about work probably says far more about the nature of our work and our incongruity with such work than it is an absolute answer.
What if our life was filled with work we love and enjoy? What if life was a string of projects we chose and designed ourself? Could we then plan, and anticipate the work as we do a book or movie or a vacation?
The luckiest of us seems to have figured out a sweet hack of life where work isn’t so much work as it is an extension of our personal agency in a curious way. The concept of personal agency here is key. People who feel like they don’t have any personal agency while work - meaning they are told exactly how to do their job - they are micro managed, and they have no freedom to develop their own methods - these people are the least happy of all.
Juxtapose this with the counter-extreme: the artist, whose entire job is quite literally dealing with the freedom they’ve afforded themselves. I the absence of a boss, an artist has to dictate and schedule their own work, which can be quite difficult - but when such work is at the discretion of one’s own curiosity, the structure and course seems to materialize on it’s own without planners and productivity hacks.
Non-existent but imagined projects begin to balloon with gleeful anticipation like the new book that so many anticipate, or the sequel movie that people just can’t wait for. This is a pleasure that so many people -unfortunately- do not get to experience.
We get the curiosity beaten out of us with industrialized education and then we become weighed down with responsibility, and the time for exploration is squeezed down to nothing. And then often for so many people, the on ramp they look forward to is wrapped up in an ideal of retirement- one that is hard to fulfill for lack of practice.