Discover more from Creative Destruction
Rabbit Holes 🕳️ #37
◉ Resisting Optimization ◉ Nourishing Self-Complexity ◉ Degrowth Is Punk ◉ From Time Famine To Time Affluence ◉ Human-Scale Organizations
This week, we’re back with the usual Rabbit Holes. However, there are a few small format changes:
Shorter abstracts: I get so excited about the articles I share with you that I often make the abstracts way too long. 😅 So, starting today, I will make them much shorter. I promise! This makes this weekly e-mail less overwhelming and hopefully makes you all check out the source articles and authors more.
Small overview: I am also adding a small overview at the top of the newsletter, helping you better screen what’s most relevant for you in that respective post.
THIS WEEK ◉ Resisting Optimization ◉ Nourishing Self-Complexity ◉ Degrowth Is Punk ◉ From Time Famine To Time Affluence ◉ Human-Scale Organizations
Rabbit Holes 🕳️
As always, five perspective-shifting ideas that I’ve come across lately, plus some fun extras. Enjoy!
#1 😑 Resisting Optimization
How can we be happy if we constantly go from optimizing one thing to optimizing another, and basically see everything as being sup-optimal? This article here links back to an older Rabbit Holes issue and a piece that looked at the moral significance we assign to productivity and efficiency in our societies, asking the question: “Who do you become when efficiency is your guiding principle?”
“‘One under-appreciated consequence of believing there is such a thing as the ‘one best way’ in every aspect of life is subsequently living with the unyielding pressure to discover it and the inevitable and perpetual frustration of failing to achieve it,’ Sacacas writes. ‘And not only frustration. It produces anxiety, fear, compulsiveness, resignation, and, ultimately, self-loathing. If there is “one best way,” how will I know it? If I have not found it, have I failed? And is it my fault?’”
“In this way, the quest for the best — or for the hack that will actually make some part of our life less cumbersome — throws a veil of dissatisfaction over our days. I look around the room and I see a laundry basket in need of optimization, an unsatisfactory rug, house plants that should be growing more. […] Instead of looking around my living space with gratitude for the soft comfort I’ve built for myself, inflected with my peculiar tastes and preferences, I see lack. And that dissatisfaction becomes a sort of lingering fog, dampening my experience of the world.”
“[…] Which is ironic, right? Because remodeling is supposed to make your house feel more welcoming, just as wellness culture is supposed to make you feel more “grounded” in your body and productivity culture is supposed to feel more confident and in control at work. Instead, they just introduce you to areas of your life you didn’t even realize needed optimizing. But now that you’ve seen them through this lens, you can’t regain your old vision of yourself or any semblance of satisfaction. Again: a sinkhole.”
» | The Optimization Sinkhole by
#2 🧑🎨 Nourishing Self-Complexity
This is the second time that I feature something from Simone Stolzoff and that’s because his recently published book hits the zeitgeist shift so well. So many of us broke life down into a sequence of childhood ▶ education ▶ career ▶ retirement and thereby forgot to include things like nourishing friendships ▶ raising a family ▶ exploring new worlds (travel, hobbies) ▶ and knowledge (books, conversations…). But that is about to change!
“For white-collar professionals, jobs have become akin to a religious identity: In addition to a paycheck, they provide meaning, community, and a sense of purpose. Journalist Derek Thompson dubbed this new phenomenon “workism.” A workist seeks meaning from their work similar to how a religious person seeks meaning from their faith. Workism is even more pronounced among entrepreneurs, who often entangle their self-worth with their professional accomplishments.
According to Thompson, the phenomenon of workism is relatively new. Over the course of the twentieth century, work evolved from a chore to a status to a means of self-actualization. […] My Italian grandmother did not expect work to be a reflection of her identity. After my grandfather passed away, she did what she had to do to take care of their five children. She opened a coffee shop in a small town in the heel of Italy’s boot and worked there for 30 years. Until her death, she had a single bulbous bicep from repeatedly pulling down the manual lever of the espresso machine.
Her identity was straightforward. First, she was a woman of faith. Then a mother, a grandmother, a sister, a fresh-pasta maker. She enjoyed her work at the coffee shop—loved it, even—but it did not define her.
[…] When you conflate who you are with what you do, you can miss out on other meaningful aspects of life.
The research shows that when we develop multiple passions, interests, and identities, we don’t just become more well-rounded humans but—ironically—we get better at work too. People with greater self-complexity are more resilient in the face of adversity, and more creative problem solvers.
To tether your self-worth to a job is to put your fate in the hands of an entity that won’t always be able to love you back. But when you see your work as one aspect among many that make up who you are, you’re able to see your job for what it is: a living, not the entirety of your life.”
#3 👩🎤 Degrowth Is Punk
While I love the concept of degrowth, I’ve had my own challenges with the word ‘degrowth’. But I really think we need more punk-ism in the way we approach new economic ideas and climate activism. If the status quo needs to be transformed disruptively, then our new narratives need to be and feel disprutive and also be received as such. Otherwise we are missing the point!
“Very serious people often tell us that the word ‘degrowth’ is too negative. People like happy, positive, nice things. Sure, the economy is systematically destroying life on earth. But nobody wants to degrow it.
[…] Here’s what degrowth naysayers don’t seem to get: degrowth is actually punk as f*ck. We’re nonconforming, anti-establishment, DIY punks. And we’re not trying to sound nice. Take your positivity and shove it.
The term ‘sustainable development’ shows what happens to concepts that aren’t hardcore. It’s been integrated into international agreements for over two decades, yet here we are, at the precipice of reaching dozens of tipping points that will send Earth’s climate spinning into chaos.
The problem wasn’t that not enough people got behind sustainable development, it was that everyone got behind it because it didn’t challenge anything at all.
[…] That’s why we use degrowth. […] Unlike post-growth, re-growth, or a-growth, we think degrowth has something special: that ‘de-’ is a little middle finger at the establishment.
[…] Very serious people claim that degrowth, like some punk culture, is nihilistic, that it doesn’t inspire hope or change. We denounce growth but do not describe alternative values, they say.
Sure, degrowth is nihilistic, but in the Nietzschean sense: a healthy refusal of the present, one that is necessary to think differently. We reject growth to make space for different concepts and values: international solidarity, the commons, financial reform, basic income, conviviality, care, to name a few. We’ve done our research, and we urge for practical policy proposals, long-term utopian visions, and disobedient direct actions—because the very serious politicians aren’t listening yet. If you’ve come to any of the last five degrowth conferences, you’ll know how forward-looking and positive degrowthers can be.”
#4 ⏱️ From Time Famine to Time Affluence
What I like about the following piece is that it challenges the myth that self-care will help you slow down and feel like you have more time. Rather, it’s when you care for others that you feel time stretching out. As I pointed out before, the underlying problem is that we have deattached ourselves from the rhythms of nature – both our own inner nature and nature in the sense of the pace of our natural environments. So if we manage to get back in sync with these more natural rhythms, we’re likely to feel way less stressed.
“Time is one of the most significant barriers to social connection today. We believe ourselves to be suffering from a ‘time famine’: always with too much to do, and never enough time to get it done. The modern corporation enshrines this famine mindset. Workplace systems monitor how and where employees spend their days. Employees keep ‘time pies’ to track their allocation of this scarce resource against specific projects. The perennial struggle for work-life balance often comes down to one problem: I simply don’t have enough hours in the day to do well at both work and home. […] Lack of time—or our perception of lack of time—keeps us from connecting.
[…] The trick is to disrupt this script to restore our sense of equilibrium. How? Two distinct strategies can help us here.
First, while we cannot add more hours to the day, we can make it feel like we did exactly that. […] [Studies show that] when we help others–for just 30 or even 15 minutes–we experience that as time added to our day, rather than lost. Helping ourselves, by comparison, does nothing. Internalizing this lesson takes practice. Start by challenging yourself to give time to others in moments when you feel time pressure not to do so. Afterwards, reflect on the experience by noticing the increased sense of time affluence that results.
[…] The second strategy addressing time famine does so by quantifying how long it actually takes to help. We have an unfortunate tendency to overestimate the amount of time needed, and therefore not to help at all. […] As time starved as we may feel, the sad truth is that we waste anywhere from thirty minutes to three hours at work each day surfing the web or in other ways. Who among us cannot actually spare a few seconds to connect with a peer or customer or neighbor, with simple words of compassion?
Achieving time affluence requires challenging your own perception of time famine. Remind yourself to give just a few minutes or even seconds to someone else. Then notice—and enjoy!—the sense of expanded time that results.
» Greater Good Magazine | How Helping Others Can Make You Feel Less Rushed by Gabriella Rosen Kellerman
#5 ⚖️ Human-Scale Organizations & Venture Capital Alternatives
This is a repost of my most “viral” LinkedIn post so far. I wanted to repost it because (1) the idea that the author Umair Haque puts forth is extremely interesting, (2) the virality of the post shows that this hit a nerve, and, most importantly, (3) I wanted to highlight two comments (see the screenshots below the article abstract) that make great points and describe the need for an alternative to venture capital.
"Where does the assumption that every business should grow to mega scale really come from? Well, it’s a relic of the industrial age. Back then, a business had to be as big as possible, to accomplish economies of scale. One factory — a hundred widgets. One factory — a million widgets. The second scenario wins — it pays off the fixed costs of the factory faster. Only we’re not in the industrial age anymore. But our businesses, institutions, and organzations — in fact, our whole economies — are still run for, governed by, this obsolete, macho principle of achieving ultra huge mega scale."
"[...] That is why we need human scale organizations."
"Human scale institutions strive for optimum scale. Not mega scale. The point at which maximum quality can be attained. Their purpose is not to maximize profitability. It is to maximize well-being. Whose? Everyone’s. Customers, employees, managers, suppliers, etcetera.
To maximize well-being, just like that independent cafe or bookshop, they aren’t governed by command-and-control military style hierarchies, but by flexible networks of experts and creators. Nor do they simply approach the problem of improving human lives cynically and blindly, trying to flog the lowest common-denominator at the highest price, but try consistently, genuinely, and radically, to innovate, serve, create, build, dare, imagine."
📺 Our house is on fire by Fridays for Future
📻 The 1st plastics pollution weather forecast predicts 88 pounds of microplastics over Paris
🎙️ If you want to dive deeper into Anti-Workism, here is a great podcast interview with Simone Stolzhoff about his new book The Good Enough Job
🚿 Shower Thoughts
That’s it for this week!
You can support this newsletter by sharing it with your friends and colleagues or by ☕️ buying me a coffee which will help me spend more time on the newsletter and pay for my domain hosting and research tool expenses.
Have a great week!