Emanations of the Philosophy of Life Instinct
This essay is a waste of time. Not yours so much, as you’re here and will get something from it. But mine, because it isn’t giving millions my best value. Consequently, I’ll neither earn much from it nor have the satisfaction of many people reading it. Still, it’s my duty as your friend to tell you something I’ve learnt.
The problem is simple — You want to be recognised in your lifetime and remembered long after you’re gone. These are inbuilt instincts of evolution. What’s the best way to achieve both?
The answer is simple —value association. In people’s minds, your name must become synonymous with something. Hopefully, it’s something good, but it has to be something for sure.
Learning From History
Not everyone can be a Leonardo da Vinci. What comes to mind when you think of him? There’ll be a spread of people saying painter, sculptor, architect, engineer, scientist, etc. He was a multi-faceted genius; many of us know his accomplishments. But this sort of person is rare; most of us couldn’t name anyone like him.
Instead, the finest names over the ages are associated with one thing each.
- Lincoln — abolisher of slavery
- Gandhi — apostle of peace
- Einstein — discoverer of Relativity and E=mC2 (okay, that’s two things, but compared to what he did, it’s small)
- Mother Teresa — saint of charity
- Picasso — genius Cubist painter
- Beethoven — master of symphonies
- Shakespeare — greatest playwright
- Emily Dickinson — a great poet
- Steve Jobs — Apple Mac and iPhone
- Napoleon — Military genius
But did you know they had other accomplishments of a high order?
Lincoln — Was a self-taught lawyer of scrupulous honesty.
Gandhi —Was a secularist and anti-casteist leader.
Einstein — Made enormous contributions to quantum mechanics, the Photoelectric effect, and more.
Mother Teresa — Was a superb organiser and collaborator.
Picasso — Was a path-breaking sculptor.
Beethoven—Was a powerful champion of the French Enlightenment.
Shakespeare — Was an excellent poet.
Emily Dickinson —Was a skilled gardener, naturalist, and baker.
Jobs —Was an expert in supply chain and inventory management.
Napoleon —Was a talented mathematician, engineer, author, orator, and administrator.
Yet, no one remembers them for these other talents, nor did they make them their life’s mission.
From Personal Experience
I am a knowledge gourmand. There is almost no field I am not interested in. If I had the time and energy, I would learn a hundred more things than I do. It has made me reasonably competent and creative in philosophy, mind and body matters, poetry, architecture, and leadership. My interest in English and linguistics naturally led to writing about these five topics. My platform of choice was and is Medium, and it’s led to a few books.
But you wouldn’t be surprised one whit when I tell you that at first my readership on Medium was abysmal and income was hilarious, at 0.16$ per month and the like. I kept going in the same vein for a couple of years, and the following crept to a few hundred and the income to a couple of bucks.
Interspersed among the philosophy and leadership and other stories were my articles on IT architecture. I noticed that these were garnering the bulk of the pitiful earnings.
I already had a lot to say in this area and much helpful material. Writing more posts on architecture was the obvious thing to do, which I did. Voila, lots more readers and claps, and last month, I touched 300$ in earnings (trust me, that’s no mean feat on Medium!).
So that’s the secret — one thing.
The famous people we observed earlier had the good sense to focus on one main thing that lifted the world for all of us. I’ve not yet raised the world one millimetre, but I’ve also had the epiphany of the value of being an authority in an area.
This is probably what’s behind this simple fact.
- Giving something time delivers the specialisation that’s valuable for the species. For example, special skills such as carpentry, engineering, medicine, etc. Better to be master of one than a jack of all trades.
- Expertise stands out and projects itself.
- Projected expertise is recognised, valued, and rewarded, which catalyses higher levels of that expertise.
We must do as they did. Focus on one thing most of the time. It will help us all; we’ll be happier, and a handful will be remembered for centuries.
I realised that my expertise is almost equal in IT Architecture and a particular form of Philosophy that’s all mine (although the latter’s value is yet to be validated by the world). So I decided I should write most on these two topics.
But I found that even two are too many. I’ve reluctantly decided to focus on architecture till 2025 and then shift to Philosophy for a decade. It’s an odd mix — architecture and philosophy, compared to fiction and poetry, physics and mathematics, etc. It’s unlikely I’ll be respected and remembered for both. But I’ll try.
What about you, one of my favourite writers? You know who you are. Do you know your area of excellence? Are you giving it its due?
Don’t tell me you’re considered generally good at writing. That would make sense only if you are a Dickens or Hemingway.
Us mere mortals should aim for something like ‘she’s a superb travel writer’, or ‘he’s the best historian of Indigenous Australians’, or ‘She’s a fantastic Bonsai guide’, and the like.
Write at least 80 per cent of the time in your expert area because:
- Quantity leads to quality (I get better as an architect with every article I write on it, for teaching is learning, and expression improves communication)
- Your work will reach critical mass, and you’ll start getting recognised and earning more. That’ll motivate and energise you.
Write the balance 20% of the time in areas other than your primary expertise because:
- It gives you a break (for me, writing poetry is a welcome change from architecture and philosophy)
- It keeps your brain nimble (by exercising different areas in it)
- It improves your expertise area in direct and indirect ways (my writing on philosophy and meditation makes me a better enterprise architect)
- It can still be valuable, even if it doesn’t add to your fame (for example, this article from me)
How do you make sure you are following the 80–20 rule? Observe, keep track, and count.
Here I’m talking about writing, but you should have this focus on one main thing in whatever you do professionally or recreationally.
Parting Shot (or Thought)
We are the lucky few if we are best at what we love most. Unfortunately, for many of us, our top talents are aligned more with our brains than our hearts. But we must be satisfied with what nature has made us.
The world deserves your best, and so do you. You better know what it is and do it justice.
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