3 - seeking intensity

Essence, tools, and longevity

Hello fellow infinite gamers 🌱

It’s been a while since we last saw each other! I’ve been heads down in the new project I joined, and finally figured out how to carve out some time for writing. Just between us, the secret is this:

Onto this month’s issue:

  • Seeking intensity: What does it mean to be intense, and how your essence, tools, and longevity shape it

  • Life updates


Seeking intensity

A few months ago, Ashley asked: “What’s the equivalent of slonking eggs for bulking my brain?” and I answered:

I’ve been thinking more about what exactly makes people more “extreme” than others, and realizing that “intense” is a better word to describe them. Here are some examples of people I’ve met that could be described as “intense”: A thrill-seeking founder, getting satisfaction only from a filled calendar and new places and fresh faces. An obsessive grad student, spending 100 hours a week in the lab absorbed in her research. A chill polymath, casually going through hundreds of books on different subjects, not taking any notes, and remembering them all.

There’s nothing in common between these individuals except the way they manifest their essence — how they think, act, carry themselves is something that's very them. In short, someone is intense because they are in touch with their essence.

We were born intense. Remember your younger years? Weren't you more yourself then? Watching children, we also see how they are intense in their own way. One might be a highly energetic monster, another might be introspective and curious, but in the end they never fail to be themselves. Parents with more than two children know this: they can observe stark differences in the personalities of sibling toddlers. 

Nick said it so well in his thread: we’re all outliers, we’re all intense, and we should get more in touch with our essence to figure out how to exploit that. The problem is most of life beats our intensity out of us. Richard Feynman said of the way we teach physics:

We have so many techniques–so many mathematical methods–that we never stop telling the students how to do things [...] The physics teacher has the problem of always teaching techniques, rather than the spirit, of how to go about solving physical problems.

Like physics, civilization accumulates more tools as it progresses. We don’t teach children the spirit of how to go about living life, but instead make them go through lengthy education (Not everyone needs college, but we all need better K-12). We are pushed into shaping our lives with so many tools, without knowing that we can make our own tools or not use them at all. That’s how our intensity is diluted.

Furthermore, when everything is at the click of a button, we stop exercising our judgement and opt for the most convenient. Instead of downloading MP3s and picking the best songs for our limited storage, we just let random Spotify playlists run through our minds. Instead of stumbling upon hidden gems we never knew we wanted in bookstores, we just rely on algorithms to find the bestsellers. “We shape our tools, and thereafter our tools shape us.” When we fail to exercise our judgement in choosing our tools, what does that say about the person we become?

A friend of mine once talked about how beautiful buildings are inefficient in the short term, but efficient in the long term. It makes sense — when we choose minimalist architecture, we are not building what will last, but structures for the next generation to tear down. Optimizing for something quick and easy instead of something that reflects our essence, we create things that are quickly discarded and descend into cultural malaise.

It’s why working on longevity is important. If we know life lasts for hundreds of years, wouldn’t we nurture our essence more and refuse to let the world lessen our intensity? We would take time to curate and build tools fit for us, time to truly define our ambitions, time to shape the beautiful buildings that we want to create in this world.

I’ve been trying to find that intensity within myself again. What I realized is that it's essential to invest time into making your inputs and environment reflect your essence, even if it seems unproductive on the surface. Feeling like your workspace is uninspiring? Take time to research and recreate the space into something that moves you. Not liking the books you've been reading? Start over and seek out new sources of recommendations. When you read about creative geniuses, you start noticing how much reverence they have for their essence:

So start with mindset first. Repeat “you have hundreds of years ahead of you” and take time to do the things that reflect your essence, even if they pain you at how long they take. Then, sort through the inputs you receive from the world and make sure they are as unadulterated as possible. In a world of algorithmic dominance, choose small acts of rebellion: obliterate your Twitter timeline and only use lists, go to a restaurant you stumble upon without looking at Yelp, listen to only music you download, pick up books you’ve never heard of. Refuse to submit to the cult of efficiency. Do things that seem right to you. 

Above all, create. Write, research, code — it's only through creating that you can extract your essence and manifest it into the world. Creating is ultimately an act of longevity. Your creations reflect who you are and you yourself become your creations. As you revise them through the feedback loops of the world, you refine your essence as well, waking up one day amazed at your transformation. That’s how you become more intense, more you. When you seek intensity, you might surprise yourself with versions of yourself you never imagined existed.


Life updates


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