Juan David's Newsletter - July 24, 2022
Follow your Curiosity or Solve Problems?
This week was a bit slow. For almost two weeks, I only slept about 5-6 hours every night so it took me about a week to recover. I don’t recommend it. I didn’t make much progress on the mega essay or drone project.
In times like this, one gets time to think and reflect.
Reflection is what we'll do.
There are two (out of many) appealing approaches to living life.
Last weekend, I had a conversation with someone who used to work at Google X (Google’s crazy projects department) and the Steve Jobs Family Office. We were talking about ideas, and of course, we arrived at the flying objects topic.
He had deeply researched the topic, which he says gave him the opportunity to see how he could spend his life. He realized something.
A dichotomy: Following your Curiosity or Solving Problems?
At first, I thought was quite interesting. For the past few years, I’ve been on “Team Follow Your Curiosity” and I’ve largely ignored the other team.
Then I thought, “Maybe I’m missing something about my model.” My model? It’s the thing I’m testing against to see whether I’m right. Think about it as experiments that get you closer to the truth.
Practicality over curiosity and obsession. Ben Franklin is someone who comes to mind as someone practical who would spend his time on useful projects. While da Vinci is someone who is more on the curious side as he would spend his time following his curiosity.
The line is quite blurry. Ben Franklin was curious as he discovered the connection between electricity and lighting. For Franklin, it seems like he had divided periods between practicality and curiosity. This is actually a smart move. At first, he made lots of money with the printing/newspaper business (practical), and then he had the “freedom” to follow his curiosity and travel to Europe.
What if Ben Franklin had followed his curiosity first? You’d get someone like da Vinci.
da Vinci was curiosity first and practicality last. The moments he would force himself to be practical are when he really had to. Such as when he worked as a military engineer for 17 years. But what da Vinci really really really loved doing was following his curiosity and inspiration. That’s why he had so many projects and finished so few of them, something that bothered him a great deal. He even thought he was a failure, distracted, and could never do something great. None of it was quite true in retrospect.
So what do we do?
If I solve problems, I’ll be more sure I’ll do something “useful.” If you do something useful at first, you can get other rewards.
If a man invests all of his money, all of his time, and all of his intellect into giving the world what it needs...
The world will have no choice but to give him what he wants.
- Naval on Elon Musk
If you follow your curiosity in the form of obsessions, you will always feel like a child as happy and as free. But you may never make much money or achieve other things like “impact.”
It seems to me that following your curiosity is somewhat more random and sure you might hit at something really useful but lots of time, you simply don’t. But someone who is truly earnestly curious doesn’t care if they “hit” it. That wasn’t the goal in the first place.
This is how we arrive at how I think about my life. I ask myself questions such as “To what extent should I blindly follow my curiosity?” “Could I do something more practical that I’m pretty sure I could get done?”
Why choose? Why not do both? I certainly can try. Looking back, it seems like there are times where I get obsessed about blind pure curiosity and other times where I get obsessed about focused intentional practicality.
Right now, I’m curious about everything flying and I’m practical about improving the distribution of ideas through automated video editing.
“Solving problems is a lot more fun and how I decided I will live my life”
- ex-Google X Engineer
This engineer is working on a practical startup and is now raising money. He’ll probably be successful and make lots of money.
But what about fundamental questions or doing things that don’t make sense until they do? That’s where I will never be able to just focus on practicality.
And for that, I may need Ben Franklin’s move unless we bring back patronage.
Until next week my friends,
Juan David Campolargo