Mar 7, 2022·edited Mar 7, 2022Liked by Erik Torenberg

I’m very interested in your ending with the Declaration of Independence, or at least making a nod to this experience as Americans.

I grew up in San Francisco with a Japanese mother, and practiced Buddhism with my parents in a highly engage lay organization. As a result, the cultural values and community has been engrained in my way of thinking. I recognize that my view of happiness is far from the short term pleasure seeking, or as you mentioned, the pain avoidance.

Happiness was always defined to mean the overcoming of personal struggles that can become a source of encouragement to others who experience the same. In other words, when recognizing the inner connectedness of life, and approaching each obstacle or victory in relation to that greater community, then that is happiness.

I find this in contrast to your writing to make me think how someone of an Asian culture would interpret your points. Perhaps it’s not so much cultural, but another way to look at it is the generational debt of growing up in a society that has been derisked so much, due to global economic circumstances, such that the values accrued to generational successors as “cursed”. Of course, with time, we may interpret this cultural phase as important (in the light of something like The Fourth Turning).

I wonder your thoughts on how this cultural narrative impacts young people in particular. Given you seem to have access to so many highly motivated young people in the tech ecosystem, perhaps your perspective is itself limited in a wide enough spectrum.

I find that compared to even 20 years ago, the sheer access to information has a counterintuitive force that creates a lack of opportunity, as contrasted to the erosion of stepping stones of incremental improvement. This contrasted to the internet magnifying of “the best”. As a result of knowing who is multiple factors better at any one thing, I imagine many people never even try or start, due to only knowing what it’s like to perform at the expert level, but never actually taking time to take the first steps to eventually experience it themselves. I imagine the demoralization, conscious or unconcious, is a real force that inspires the “self esteem” problem that possibly causes many people from even taking the first step at doing something of significance. The self esteem problem is perhaps the aesthetically easier problem to approach, although what is really needed is more individual attention to people at the starting phases of exploration, and the moral encouragement to take steps in areas that are otherwise uninteresting but unfamiliar.

In any case, thank you for taking time to write this.

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Mar 7, 2022·edited Mar 7, 2022Liked by Erik Torenberg

I enjoyed this (especially the Kapwing watermark, thx)!

I think this shift towards “self-care porn” is partly related to the pandemic. So much public discourse and language was about taking a break from work, prioritizing public health over businesses, being generous to the unemployed, and staying in. Businesses advertised how their products could be used to better yourself at home, and those ads often glorified self-care. “Sacrifice for a greater good” became staying home and doing nothing vs starting businesses, building things, competing in sports, etc.

I would guess this will recede over the next few years as the public health situation has improved, because I do think some humans naturally want to achieve, compete, hustle, and build things.

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one aspect of the discussion that i think is important to include is *who* the effort is in service of... i believe that one criticism of 'hustle culture' was the idea that it's mostly capital telling labor to work hard in service of capital. An empowered individual acting freely in the market on behalf of themselves, in a system that allows them to capture the output of their productivity is a wonderful thing. And healthy and sustainable. Hustling for oneself, vs hustling for others!

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Hey Erik, thanks for sharing your thoughts. Your posts are among the most effective for me to make my thinking clearer and sharper! 🙏

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“ Tis true without lying, certain & most true.

That which is below is like that which is above & that which

is above is like that which is below to do the miracles of one

only thing

And as all things have been & arose from one by the

mediation of one: so all things have their birth from this

one thing by adaptation.”

— Tabula Smaragdina

Hermetis Trismegistri

Philosophorum patris

As translated

By Sir Isaac Newton.


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