“Intellectual concentration as entertainment”

Over a decade ago, Nassim Taleb wrote at Facebook:

LEARNING TO DO NOTHING (Idleness as a BS detector/cleaner) – At the start of this year I resolved to do “nothing except if it felt like a hobby” i.e., “satisfy interests while providing entertainment value with zero pressure, no schedule and no feeling of duty”. The rule is to wake up with the aim to “do nothing”, have nothing scheduled and avoid the usual guilt (or shame) encountered by most when “wasting time”, have minimum committments and talk to NO journalist. Of course, cut everything unpleasant, no matter what the potential gain. Treat everything (including mathematics) the way a great-uncle of mine who was a man of leisure treated his afternoon game of bridge: intellectual concentration as entertainment.

RESULT: 12 academic papers (9 accepted so far), finished a book (Silent Risk)–well, almost, wrote 100 aphorisms, ate 2 Beijing ducks, learned to typeset books as a self-standing publisher, found 4 investments … and this is 3/4 of the year.

NOTE: To do things make sure you have no assistant. They drag you into doing things for the sake of “work”.

That pretty much sums up the attitude with which I write this blog. It’s work the same way playing a board game is work, and nothing more than that. The point is to have fun, not to win.

This attitude requires maintenance, adherence, and restraint

The world has been moving in a direction where people stand to make money by teaching you how to do something—which, by definition, requires you not to do nothing. 

For example, think of all of the courses that involve some version of, “Quit your job, make money independently as a creator,” etc. In order to do this, they need to convince you to want to do something—quit your job, make money—and only after that will you want to pay them to learn to do that thing. Or, they make a promise that they can’t keep, hoping that you and I will keep falling for it.

What’s true is doing nothing means also not expecting results from it—people wouldn’t pay for nothing—the same way Nassim Taleb’s uncle probably wouldn’t expect to get paid for his afternoon game of bridge.

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