Faux

Opinion by Josh Cho
Dec. 13, 2016, 12:21 a.m.

I am sitting here, in Green Library, trying to wrap my head around whether I am worth writing this article. A bit bleak, but these thoughts do come up. You commit yourself to doing something, and then mid-way through, you feel unqualified to do it. To me, writing publicly is a demonstration of your breakthroughs. Somehow helping other people go through the same struggles you went through.

But if you feel you haven’t had any breakthroughs recently, should you feel less inclined to write? Can you ever be too weak to write? Unqualified?

I wrote on Facebook daily for a couple months. I stopped a couple weeks ago because I felt they gradually lost the message of hope. Somehow being too cynical and bleak about the world didn’t jive well with me. I would notice what I had written, and blame my past self for writing about them. Even now, there are insecurities about having qualified my complaints in this column.

But I know that some of the best writing happens when you are in your lowest state. In light of such crumminess, I cleanse myself through writing. I take a shower, grime comes off, and on the floor I print my own flaws. The flaws that make me human. The flaws that make me humble.

There is one thing to know humility, and another to feel humility. And creating that link between implicit and applied knowledge is really, really difficult. To feel at the core that you can only deal with intention, not outcome. To not be overwhelmed by worries of tomorrow and regrets of the past.

But that piece of wisdom conflicts with the world where results are what count. If the process — instead of the results — counted, then instantly the process would be the results. By definition, if you count it, that is a result, so there is no escape from results-oriented nature within us. At the end of the day, you can only try, for you are no god. And that is the sad and liberating truth.

But if you believe less in your ability to perform, then you will perform less. The belief that you can do something helps you do it more than anything else. But this belief also sets high expectations that make you focus on the results.

How to weed out the negative high expectations out of belief that what you do will work? Gratitude is often hailed as the diffuser of expectation, but could that somehow set yourself up for failure?

There is one solution for this problem. To never fail. To always meet your expectations, no matter high. Or doublethink so that you can instantly purge your disappointment at your past self. But intentional doublethink is almost impossible.

I have been reading a book a day. That sounds impressive, until you consider that I only skim the first chapter or so, in search of a solution. Something that will instantly change my life. The magic pill of insight. And when I take this pill, I have excessively high expectations for it, and no matter how good, it’s bound to fail. When the pill fails, I lose a modicum of faith in medicine (i.e. books, or in other words, insight industry) as a whole, and go searching for a new pill.

When you are thirsty for insights, you interrogate them so much that they don’t work. Your impatience hinders them. Only when you are not expecting them, insights organically grow and meld into your life. But can you really dim your thirst? Can a thirsty child really stop himself from chugging water down his throat?

I believe in a couple months from now, I will read this piece and have no idea what is going on. It will be hard for me to empathize with my current self. I somehow hope that he won’t, because I sometimes prefer ignorance to real pain.

But distancing yourself from your heightened states, both positive and negative, is probably healthier for sustained life. If you keep those close, then you are in for great disappointment.

To feel in the bones that you have learned a lesson, though, is addicting. That certainty is beautiful — you can be 100% yourself.

When that bedrock starts shaking, however, what happens then?

Contact Josh Cho at joshcho ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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