Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Mountains Beyond Mountains: Loneliness of the Bargain-Bin Intellectual

The difficulty with modern society, as I've alluded to in previous posts is the difficulty with finding your niche. This was an indirect allusion which I described in my previous article "My Life as an NPC", where I outline how I believe I am doomed to a life of toil and mediocrity. That comes off as more doom and gloom than I would have originally intended it to. The goal now is : in light of this knowledge, how do I cope with being absolutely mediocre?

I will say that this is an endless struggle which I face on a daily basis. If you are someone who is content with a simple job, Netflix, video games, and the same meaningless conversations with faceless people in real/online interactions you need not apply. But if you desire and crave to come up with ideas of your own, but have accepted you lack the talent to do anything of significance, perhaps this article is for you.

The key to being happy despite one's mediocrity is to choose an activity at your level. If you choose to study abstract algebra for fun, you will end up hating yourself if you are already aware you lack the capability for complex math. For me, I choose reading novels and language learning. These hobbies afford me an endless bath of hours of activities which are mentally stimulating at a level that I can handle. The most important part of these activities is that they can be done alone. While some people are mentally healthy enough to realize that they are/will never be 'the best' so comparing themselves to anyone is a fruitless struggle, I am not mentally healthy enough to do that. So, I must put guardrails around my thoughts to a further extent than other people.

Do not read online about your hobby. The more you read online, the more you will see people bragging about what they've accomplished in a hobby in X number of months, years, etc. This will invariably lead to lower self-esteem, but the purpose of being an autodidact is to improve one's self-efficacy and faith that we are capable of doing things. It takes very little effort online to find some "protagonist" with a 3-5 sigma advantage over average on some skill getting off on being superior to others. While it is true that they may in fact be lying, the more prescient piece of intel is that they are quite likely to be telling the truth.

As we slice and dice a population further and further in a binned social network like Reddit, it is more likely that as our specificity of topic increases so is the likelihood we find those truly talented people discussing things normal people either like the fluid or crystallized intelligence to comprehend. The more specific questions we ask of Google, Reddit or any search engine, the less empowered I tend to feel. I always feel like I am punching above my weight class, in perpetual deference to these wunderkinds light years ahead of me. So, when I pursue my hobbies, I pursue them. Nobody else can interfere or tell me I'm doing something wrong, because I wouldn't listen anyways. That process of self-discovery is the skill I'm learning. I cannot change that I am not special, but I can learn to limit the information input I have. It's better to live in a delusion where you believe you are useful because of an artificially small population of those around you who have the same skills as you do, than to acknowledge the cold truth that there are likely tens of thousands of people better than you at everything, and no matter how hard you try it will come to nothing.

Sometimes, rediscovering truths that greater minds figured out is much more pleasurable than learning that something is true from these greater minds directly. By taking shortcuts and reading this curated knowledge , you may be wasting the opportunity to re-invent the wheel and enjoy building your own knowledge/theories. There is no purpose to gaining knowledge other than how it makes us feel. Work is finite, and you may as well enjoy this process, so the most efficient way to learn about a new domain by re-treading others' steps may lead to more efficacy in the real world, but that's for people that more less inert, unlike me.

By ensuring I follow these steps I can spend my free time in a way that builds self-esteem, and also prevents me from comparing myself to others.

1. Engage in a solitary intellectual activity
2. Do not talk about this with others too much to avoid comparisons with other people.
3. Do continuously question how you best learn/how to be more efficient (work on metacognition).
4. Never search forum posts/ask Google complex questions about your hobby

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