Novelty and Exploration Cost
January 31, 2018
Author: Bianca Yang
In a previous post, I said that people who didn’t know what they wanted to do probably hadn’t seen enough of the world. This statement is naive in the sense that it entirely ignores exploration cost. When I was writing the piece, I was primarily focused on speaking to students in high school or even mature middle schoolers. For them, the exploration cost is negligible. Unless they’re already so good at something they eventually be paid for, they’re going to need to explore and work hard to make or find a place for yourself in society.
My saying their exploration cost is negligible doesn’t mean they should explore willy-nilly. Exploration requires deep, focused effort to truly understand your aptitude for an area and your willingness to develop in that area. This is completely in contrast to the current paradigm of “sell your attention and energy to digital entertainment”. It is natural to want to escape and vegetate after a day of hard work, but it is wrong to believe that behavior is productive. The best strategy is to develop a system where you operate at a a near constant level of productivity. This man’s journey to 200 hours of productivity a month is a great example of the dedication I am talking about. In order to achieve excellence, you must able to put yourself into long-term flow states. Only in this flow state can you dive deep into a topic and achieve fluency.
Fluency is commonly used only in respect to language, but it is a state of mastery that applies to every skill. Those who are fluent understand the inner mechanism of a tool well enough to manipulate it to fit their needs better. Those who are fluent in a language are less constrained by the structure and the vocabulary than a beginner. Those who are fluent in mathematics know how to manipulate the various building blocks to create new structures. Fluency is that state of being where you are in a symbiotic relationship with a tool. The tool shapes you and you shape the tool.
You aren’t going to achieve this level of fluency when exploring, but you should be able to assess whether you want to or will be able to achieve this level of fluency when you’re exploring. Learn to be more self-reflective and understand what you want to contribute to the world. Dive deep into your purpose and work every day to achieve that purpose.