Fixation and pleasure-point analysis of careers

Many of us get fixated on a particular interest that can cost us regarding turning our ideas and dreams into reality. This brilliant article talks about this phenomenon of fixation and how it can be resolved by carefully analyzing our pleasure points in our jobs/careers.

One key thing that can go wrong in our thinking about a career is that we get fixated on a particular kind of job which – for one reason or another – turns out not to be a promising or realistic option. It may be that the job is tough to secure, it may require long years of preparation or it might be in an industry that has become precarious and therefore denies us good long-term prospects.

Here we call it a fixation – rather than merely an interest – to signal that the focus on the job is proving problematic because we have an overwhelming sense that our future lies with this one occupation and this occupation alone – while nevertheless facing a major obstacle in turning our idea into a reality.

One of the results of this ‘fixation’ is confusing infrastructure development for skill development. For instance, one of my friends who love reading and is a voracious reader decided to start her own bookstore. She was so busy setting up the infrastructure and business model for her bookstore that she forgot about her actual pleasure, reading. She has never read a book in the last two years and now, she is so busy running her bookstore business that she hardly finds time to read.

Similarly, another friend of mine is a musician. He loves to play guitar and wanted to set up a little music studio at home. For the last two years, he has been focussing on his day job so much so that he could make enough money to build his studio (infrastructure) and then he can play guitar in peace and release albums. What eventually happened was, he hardly touched his guitar in the last two years and lost in touch with the art of playing guitar. Now he has a beautiful studio equipped with everything but, he cannot play guitar like before. He thinks he can fill this gap in his skill level by buying more stuff (technology, tools, etc.) in his studio instead of just resuming his guitar practice.

Pleasure-point analysis can help resolve this issue of fixation.

Investigation reveals that the pleasures we are seeking are more mobile than initially supposed.

The pleasure-point analysis is not an exercise in getting us to give up on what we really want. The liberating move is to see that what we want exists in places beyond those we had identified.

The surprising, liberating side of pleasure-point analysis is that it reveals that it can never be a particular industry sector that is the key to finding a job we can love. Because when properly understood a pleasure is – thankfully – generic and can, therefore, indeed turn up in many different and initially unexpected places. Careful knowledge of what we love sets us free.


How does cultivating a passion for a discipline helps us navigate the world in a better way?

Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity. – Simone Weil
Having a passion or an interest in something makes us pay attention to the world through the lens of that passion or interest and that’s how we cultivate the genius within ourselves. Paying attention to the world is also, the doorway to cultivate gratitude.
This is such timely idea/reminder especially in this digital era of constant alerts, buzzes, notifications, and other distractions.
Attention … is the taking possession by the mind, in clear and vivid form, of one out of what seem several simultaneously possible objects or trains of thought, localization, concentration, of consciousness are of its essence. It implies withdrawal from some things in order to deal effectively with others, and is a condition which has a real opposite in the confused, dazed, scatter brained state which in French is called distraction, and Zerstreutheit in German.
[The] kind of deep attention that we pay as children is something that I cherish, that I think we all can cherish and reclaim — because attention is the doorway to gratitude, the doorway to wonder, the doorway to reciprocity. And it worries me greatly that today’s children can recognize 100 corporate logos and fewer than 10 plants. That means they’re not paying attention.
Having a selective interest helps navigate the chaos of this world and helps understand the world better.
Millions of items of the outward order are present to my senses which never properly enter into my experience. Why? Because they have no interest for me. My experience is what I agree to attend to. Only those items which I notice shape my mind without selective interest, experience is an utter chaos. Interest alone gives accent and emphasis, light and shade, background and foreground intelligible perspective, in a word. It varies in every creature, but without it the consciousness of every creature would be a gray chaotic indiscriminateness, impossible for us even to conceive.
Clearly, the way to be successful and add value in this world would be to cultivate a passion for a discipline that sustains our attention
Sustained attention is the easier, the richer in acquisitions and the fresher and more original the mind. In such minds, subjects bud and sprout and grow. At every moment, they please by a new consequence and rivet the attention afresh. But an intellect unfurnished with materials, stagnant, unoriginal, will hardly be likely to consider any subject long. A glance exhausts its possibilities of interest. Geniuses are commonly believed to excel other men in their power of sustained attention… Their ideas coruscate, every subject branches infinitely before their fertile minds, and so for hours they may be rapt.
When we come down to the root of the matter, we see that [geniuses] differ from ordinary men less in the character of their attention than in the nature of the objects upon which it is successively bestowed.

What are we going to do with all the technology and cognitive surplus?

I came across Photomath a few days ago and couldn’t help but wonder what we are going to do with the cognitive surplus as a result of such advancements. Fortunately, there is so much we can do the result being creativity and generosity.

You can use that surplus to play video games and hang out.

Or you can use that surplus to go learn how to do something that can’t be done by someone merely because she has a calculator.

Entire professions and industries are disrupted by the free work and shortcuts that are produced by the connection economy, by access to information, by robots. Significant parts of your job are almost certainly among them.

Now that we can get what you used to do really quickly and cheaply from someone else, you can either insist that you still get to do that for us at the same fee you used to charge, or you can move up the ladder and do something we can’t do without you.

Here are a few ideas that are not perfect but, better than watching TV.

  1. Start a blog on a topic that you care about and write a blog post daily.
  2. Volunteer in your community.
  3. Mentor someone in person or online.
  4. Learn a new language, sport, or a musical instrument.
  5. Read for an hour or two everyday.
  6. Listen to some of the greatest music compositions.
  7. Write hand-written notes to people you care about.
  8. Play a game with your family.
  9. Exercise every day.
  10. Learn to cook a nice meal and share it with your family and friends.
  11. Produce short movies on your smart phones and share them online.


Making ourself future-proof by becoming thinkers

Here are some future-proof skills that we must aspire to develop.

  1. Sense-making – Connecting the dots, cross-pollinating ideas, combinatorial creativity across disciplines.
  2. Social intelligence – Connecting with people by asking the right questions and not necessarily by having all the answers.
  3. Novel and adaptive thinking – Staying up-to-date is no longer enough. We need to keep growing our personal skills and development.
  4. Cross-cultural competencies – Sensitivity and increased tolerance level towards differences.
  5. Computational thinking – Converting data into insights.
  6. New media literacy – Not just power point decks but also, be comfortable with videos, blogs, and graphics.
  7. Transdisciplinarity – More generalists, who can connect the dots across disciplines, in addition to specialists needed.
  8. Design mindset – Knowing human values and human nature.
  9. Cognitive load management – Via negative approach, learn to say NO, addition by subtracting.
  10. Virtual collaboration – Self-motivated, disciplined without a supervisor to monitor you physically.

Writer, Alain de Botton uses this idea to make a case for why there should be more philosophers in the boardroom.

Our society has made a rather unhelpful link between novelty and importance. If you properly understood eternal bits of human nature, you are better armed for the world.

We have allowed ourselves to be intimidated by the narrative of technology. We are constantly trying to work out how we can be future-proof and insulate ourselves from change. Technology is so fast paced – the mobile phone changes every six months. But books written in the 18th century are more up-to-date than the iPhone. They are leaning on human nature and that’s why they are future-proof. I urge you to look back and adopt a cycle of psychology – you can be as up-to-date as Silicon Valley.

Plato famously said that the world wouldn’t be right until kings were philosophers or philosophers were kings. He meant that the world needs a proper alliance of strategic rational thought and executive capability – too often we have a division between those who think and those who do.

Our brains may be the best research tools, but you rarely have a conversation with yourself. Taking time to step back and address big questions like ‘what am I trying to do?’ and ‘how do I feel about it?’ is so important.

Finland is planning to eliminate individual subjects from the school curriculum and instead, to adopt the interdisciplinary format of education to solve problems in the world.



Putting the definition of success into context

Seth Godin in his interview on On Being podcast mentions that:

I notice things for a living. In an abundant economy, we do not have enough connection – we feel lonely, and we do not have enough time. If people can offer us a connection, meaning, and a place where we can be our best self, yes, we will seek that out. It may not help you build a profitable business but, it can help you make a difference in your community.

Human beings are hardwired to understand and value scarcity. We find understanding abundance more difficult.
The baby boomers valued materialism and believed in the rags to riches stories because of this. In their generation, they had more time, people were living in communities, and the scarce resource was stuff or physical goods. So, they valued more stuff, and more money. Their definition of a successful person was someone who had more money, more stuff, and better comforts than them. Therefore, the celebrities of that time were movie stars, pop stars, and industrialists, who had more money, more stuff and could afford more comforts. They were the ones who owned or found solutions to deal with the scarce resources at that point and by capitalizing the opportunity.
However, in the last 20 years, with the advent of technology and internet, many things got commoditized. Things became cheaper, and many people, especially in the developed nations could afford necessities. People began to consume more media and information as smartphones got cheaper. More people started to live in isolated habitats. All this abundance created a new scarcity – the lack of time and the sense of community. Therefore, in today’s world, the definition of a successful person is someone who is more focussed in what he does and who leads a tribe. This gave rise to a new breed of celebrities, that is, individuals who capitalized on these scarce resources such as technology leaders, and people who lead movements such as minimalism and eco fashion as these are the ones who are finding solutions to deal with today’s scarcity and creating value around that.
I am a minimalist, and I have always wondered why my parents never understood the concept of minimalism. However, now I know the reason. The things that I value and the things they valued are entirely different. It does not necessarily mean that either of us are right or wrong. We are both right in our ways and in our own contexts.This is a revelation to me because all these while I wondered why my parents did not understand me. Even though that was true, I later, realized even I never saw things from their point of view.

Economics is the science of choice under scarcity. People who know how to make choices around scarce resources create value. The bottom line is if you know how to capitalize on the scarce resources, that is, finding solutions to create value around scarcity, you win.


Abundance & scarcity are two sides of the same coin

Chris Anderson in his book, Free talks about how we can deal with abundance and figure out scarcity in this era of abundance.
Dealing with abundance
Ideas are the ultimate abundance commodity. Even though patents are kept to do business out of ideas, patents ultimately expire, and ideas get out. When more products are made of ideas rather than stuff, the quicker they become cheap. This abundance is what leads to ‘free’ in the and is called as the Moore’s law. Any industry where information is the main ingredient tends to follow this compound learning curve – accelerate in performance while the prices drop and where it becomes more brain than brawn. Hence, there is an incentive to turn things digital where things can be a part of something bigger, not only by operating faster but also, by accelerating. We can afford to take chances when it comes to tapping abundant resources since the cost of failure is too low.
More waste production is a consequence of this abundance. However, the waste created is relative to our sense of scarcity.
One generation’s scarcity is another’s abundance.
This is something that authors of science fiction keeps coming back time and again – making scarce things abundant.
In some of these books, the end of labor scarcity liberates the mind, ends wars over resources, and creates a civilization of spiritual, philosophical beings. In others, the end of scarcity makes us lazy, decadent, stupid and mean. Is it inevitable that the end of scarcity also means the end of discipline and drive?
It’s worth looking at a historical analogy, the civilizations of Athens and Sparta, for an answer. If you were lucky enough to be born into the right class, you didn’t have to work to live.
However, it’s really hard to come to terms with the concept of abundance.
Abundance is always the light on the next peak, never the one we’re on. Economically, abundance is the driver of innovation and growth. But, psychologically, scarcity is all that we really understand. People don’t always recognize abundance when they first see it.
On the one hand, information wants to be expensive, because it’s so valuable. The right information in the right place just changes your life. On the other hand, information wants to be free, because the cost of getting it out is getting lower and lower all the time. So you have these two fighting against each other.
Retaining scarcity in the world of abundance
Once our hunger for basic information and entertainment is satisfied, we get more discriminating about what kind of knowledge and entertainment we want exactly. This process helps us know more about ourselves and what motivates/drives us. This eventually, turns us into active producers rather than passive consumers.
Controlling scare resources demands us to be more discriminating.
Google doesn’t sell space. It sells users’ intentions – what they’ve declared they’re interested in, in the form of a search query. And that’s a scarce resource. The number of people typing in ‘Berkeley dry cleaner’ on any given day is finite.
However, this wealth of information creates a scarcity: a poverty of attention/time.
Every abundance creates a new scarcity. We tend to value most what we don’t already have in plentitude. It is quite true that man lives by bread alone – when there is little bread.
Here’s what marketing guru, Seth Godin have to say about this:

We spent a generation believing certain parts of our business needed to be scarce and that advertising and other interruption should be abundant. Part of the pitch of free is that when advertising goes away, you need to make something else abundant in order to gain attention. Then, and only then, will you be able to sell something that’s naturally scarce.

This is an uncomfortable flip to make, because the stuff you’ve been charging for feels like it should be charged for, and the new scarcity is often difficult to find. But, especially in the digital world, this is happening, and faster than ever.