Onto the third.
So, a lot of people think that, if someone isn’t living by their values, it’s because they’re weak or hypocritical. But, if you look closely at a values card, you realize quickly that it's not that simple. It's actually quite hard to find a place to do deep work.
Looking again at the middle part of the card, it seems clear that it could sometime be hard to find, assess, and choose these things!
Consider the curiosities. The ones you're ready pursue for months or years.
- To know you curiosities, you’ve got to introspect. You gotta find them inside yourself, and also guess which will last for a long time.
- You gotta contemplate them.
- You gotta commit. You have to say “Okay, I'm going to try to figure this out.”
- You gotta figure out how to make progress.
- To assess methods you hear about—will they be fruitful for your questions?
- And to devise experiments.
- And actually find time and space to run those experiments.
Let’s list more! This time, focusing on colleagues and community.
You need to find and assess potential colleagues.
- What are their deepest questions?
- Are they insightful people?
- Do they have a conversational style that works for patiently thinking together?
- Are they diligent in their own questions?
You’ll need some skills to work with them:
- To discuss your ideas.
- To create thoughtful conversations.
- To deliver feedback to them, in a graceful way.
- To impress them with your ability to help, or your own insightfulness.
And you’ll need to build relationships with them.
- To arrange regular conversations.
- To issue challenges.
- To say, one way or another: “Hey, you wanna collaborate on this deep question that will take us years to solve?”
Workplaces and sponsors
Finally, look at these two entries on the values card.
How does a person end up with days that are open enough to pursue deep work? And with places that are quiet enough?
Usually, this means finding a workplace, a research grant, or something like that.
- You need to hear about these things.
- You need to get hired, or impress the funders. To do this, you need to make your qualifications much more legible.
- Even if you’re funded, arranging a day for deep work is a skill.
- Finally, you need to be in a place in life where you can change where or how you live your life!
These things are all hard.
But if you can’t do them, you won’t be able to do deep work.
We call them “hard steps”.
The hard steps explain why people don’t necessary live by their values. If somebody would find meaning in deep work, but they're not doing deep work, it could be that any of these hard steps were blockers for them. They can’t find or choose companions, discover their curiosities, etc.
The hard steps also show us more about what a source of meaning is. About how it plays out in a life: they reveal the rich backstory that underlies meaningful experience. Our sources of meaning are woven into our lives. Meaning is not something we experience in an instant—meaning is a realization, an assessment that we have, when we look at our lives, that we were able to attend to what was important to us. Meaning is many moments of choice, woven together through time.