Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Procrastination

Procrastination

September 14, 2020
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Procrastination, the action of delaying or postponing something.
From Latin: procrastinare, pro-, ‘forward’, with –crastinus, ’till next day’ from “cras“, ‘tomorrow’.

Starting off with a bit from Antifragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb:
Few understand that procrastination is our natural defense, letting things take care of themselves and exercise their antifragility; it results from some ecological or naturalistic wisdom, and is not always bad–at an existential level, it is my body rebelling against its entrapment. It is my soul fighting the Procrustean bed of modernity. Granted, in the modern world, my tax return is not going to take care of itself–but by delaying a non-vital visit to a doctor, or deferring the writing of a passage until my body tells me that I am ready for it, I may be using a very potent naturalistic filter. I write only if I feel like it and only on a subject I feel like writing about–and the reader is no fool. So I use procrastination as a message from my inner self and my deep evolutionary past to resist interventionism in my writing. Yet some psychologists and behavioral economists seem to think that procrastination is a disease to be remedied and cured.

I read this, and went: Wait. Hey! Whaaaat?!

Thinking back, I am guilty as charged. Having only, ever, looked at procrastination with scorn, disgust, dread, flagging it to be the culprit of tight (or even more horribly, missed) deadlines, of unchecked ToDo’s, endless lists written and never attended to… and add to that my worst sin: tardiness. Which, I must admit, I am only now realizing has a large factor of procrastination in it. ”I’m just gonna…” is one of the most common phrases out of my mouth (ask my children, they will verify it!), habitually postponing the next step in favor of what I am doing right now.

In the mornings, I want to write, read, do my Wim Hof-breathing rounds (three sets) and my morning Seven before I feel properly ready to meet the world. If I don’t exercise some proper discipline not only do I not write, not read, I spend the time scrolling my SoMe-feed, getting ready to do my Wim Hof around the time when I should be getting dressed to have breakfast, in order to meet whatever appointment/deadline I am ignoring… This has me doing my breathing, Seven and getting dressed, often skipping breakfast, and biking like a madwoman across town, arriving –winded and sweating– a few minutes after the fact…

I am n o t proud of this.
But. I. Just. Cannot. Seem. To. Shake. The. Habit.
Procrastinating like hell.
I am just gonna… do this, that and the other thing, before I get down to business and get myself to whatever-is-scheduled.

So when I read ”…seem to think that procrastination is a disease to be remedied and cured” I went: Wait. Hey! Whaaaat?! You mean it may n o t be? 

What’s the message for me in this?
What is it I am n o t doing, that would make me stop procrastinating?
Or, rather, what would have me use the procrastination as a message, a signal? Information to me, about the way I schedule my days, my weeks? The way I am keeping myself from doing some things I truly want to do (or do I? Is that the message?), avoiding… what?

There are so many layers to this, layers I am eager to lift up, explore and study, scrutinize and learn from. What serves me? What doesn’t serve me? When does/doesn’t it? How can I find ways of being in the world, that doesn’t have me waste the time of others (having to wait for me before getting on with it) while at the same time grant myself a life of less meddling?

So. Many. Questions.
Impossible (or not?) to answer?

What is procrastination to you?


#tankespjärn, for those who wish to discover. More. Other. New.
Join me and other patrons of the tankespjärn-community on a Zoom-call on September 23rd 2020 at 7 pm CEST, in conversation on the topic of procrastination.
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The Black Swan (book 26 of 26)

December 30, 2018
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The Black Swan – The impact of the highly improbable, is a book written by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. It is the perfect follow up to Thinking, fast and slow, as Kahneman and Taleb cross-reference each other throughout the two books.

What then, is a Black Swan? In Taleb’s words: “First, it is an outlier, as it lies outside the realm of regular expectations, because nothing in the past can convincingly point to its possibility. Second, it carries an extreme impact (unlike the bird). Third, in spite of its outlier status, human nature makes us concoct explanations for its occurrence after the fact, making it explainable and predictable. I stop and summarize the triplet: rarity, extreme impact, and retrospective (though not prospective) predictability.”

The Black Swans live in Extremistan, whereas most of us humans seem to believe we live our entire lives in Mediocristan: “Mediocristan is where we must endure the tyranny of the collective, the routine, the obvious, and the predicted; Extremistan is where we are subjected to the tyranny of the singular, the accidental, the unseen, and the unpredicted.”

As with Thinking, fast and slow, this is quite the read, not easy, often times mind-boggling to say the least, but greatly helped along by the dry humor inserted here and there – making it a challenging but fun read!

Taleb doesn’t seem to leave a single stone unturned, yet he is clear about the danger in pretending to know what one does not know: “My biggest problem with the educational system lies precisely in that it forces students to squeeze explanations out of subject matters and shames them for withholding judgment, for uttering the ‘I don’t know’.”

With this final book reflection of the year, a year of reaching my goal of reading one hundred books (this one!) as well as reading – and blogging about – 26 Swedish and 26 English books that I decided upon at the start of the year, I am happy to put this book reading challenge to behind me. Urged along by Taleb who writes read books are far less valuable than unread ones I will happily continue to purchase and borrow books, matching my library of read books with my antilibrary, of as yet unread books.

Seneca ended his essays with vale, often mistranslated as ‘farewell’. It has the same root as ‘value’ and ‘valor’ and means both ‘be strong (i.e., robust)’ and ‘be worthy’. Vale.”

Indeed a fitting way to end this year of lots of reading and no less than 52+ book reflections (counting the Swedish ones as well as the English):
Vale.


The book I am blogging about is part of the book-reading challenge I’ve set for myself during 2018, to read and blog about 26 Swedish and 26 English books, one book every week, books that I already own.

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