Elegance & Engine Lights

Avoiding Over-Optimization

We’re natural problem solvers. We’re fixers. We have an instinct to share insights that we think would be helpful, to point out flaws. We spend a lot of energy on the broken things: e.g. the day the check engine light comes on in our car, the car takes up a huge amount of space in our consciousness; but other days, when the car’s running fine, we hardly think about it at all. Don’t always look for the check engine light in life - especially in people. Sometimes it’s nice just to say “hey you’re doin’ good, kid. Keep it up. Don’t let the bastards get ya down.” Cause a lot of things go right and that deserves as much of our time as the check engine light.

We do it to ourselves, too. Self improvement can have an all-consuming quality. Optimization is good but watch out for the casualties: a single-minded approach to optimization often comes at the expense of elegance, grace, and charm. Drive a manual car from the ‘70s and you’ll see what I mean - what gets lost. Try for one day to be ok with yourself, except for maybe one thing: aim for fearlessness. Be exactly who you are just minus the fear. If you can make a habit of that I think you’ll find a lot of things will fall into place - and you won’t lose the charm of your humanity in the process, in fact, you’ll likely realize it more fully.

The world around us is fixated on constant improvement. The shift from analog to digital is achieving new levels of speed and efficiency everyday. But it comes at the cost of the romance and poetry of life. That’s why people are still buying records. There’s something utterly unromantic about a Spotify playlist, convenient as it is. We’re analog beings. Ones and zeroes are clean, quantifiable, precise, but wholly sterile and uninspiring. So be careful not to optimize yourself into a machine. Lean into the chaos a bit.

Stay analog. Stay romantic. Stay creative. Be fearless.

Let your curiosity lead you - it’s the most authentic propellant because it doesn’t have any biological/evolutionary goals. And don’t let the check engine light determine where you spend your energy.