Welcome back to the newsletter.
In today’s issue:
- Commitment in the age of infinite browsing
- 21 ideas on simplicity
- The best of what I consumed last week
Let’s dive in.
Commitment in the Age of Infinite Browsing
We live in a “Culture of Open Options” as Pete Davis writes in his book Dedicated: The Case for Commitment in an Age of Infinite Browsing.
Always browsing, never deciding.
Always liquid, never solid.
It’s hard enough for us to commit to a series on Netflix, let alone a business idea, career path, city, or long-term relationship.
This trend of “infinite browsing” and non-commitment is pervasive. You see it in the decline of marriage and birthrates. Perpetual digital nomadism. Anxiety-fuelled job-hopping.
It’s a result of a cultural shift in values, an abundance of choice like we’ve never experienced before, and social-media-induced FOMO.
We have more freedom to choose than ever before. We instinctively think this is good. We’re told it’s good. But beneath the surface, there’s painful dissatisfaction. There’s something missing.
And what’s missing is commitment.
Because while it’s fun to begin with, infinite browsing loses its luster quickly.
Ask anyone who’s spent too long a time in infinite browsing mode and they’ll confirm this. Whether it’s the digital nomad who, despite travelling from country to country for years on end still feels empty and lacks community.
Or the budding entrepreneur who perpetually experiments with business ideas that excite him, but never commits to the boring, obvious business idea that has a higher chance of success.
The Way Out is Through Commitment
Escaping this infinite browsing mode requires commitment. There’s no other way.
Sure, there’s value in experimentation and some browsing. Blind commitment is nothing to be proud of. That’s how you end up in a job you hate for 40 years, or a marriage that didn’t make sense from the start.
But most of us are not at risk from under-browsing. If anything, we’re tilted far towards the other end of the spectrum: we over-browse.
So why don’t we commit?
Because it’s hard. It induces FOMO. And we think it’s risky.
When you commit, you cut yourself off from other (appealing) options. Starting a business means forgoing other goals and dreams. Getting married means cutting yourself off from other potential partners. Committing to one location and intentionally building a family and community means you’re not going to nomad around Europe for 3 years.
This cutting off of other options induces a fear of missing out. FOMO. Social media puts it on steroids. Never before in history have we been hyperaware of what everyone else is doing. Committing yourself to one career, one partner, one location is easier when you’re not blasted in the face by peers who are jumping careers, dating someone new each week, and travelling Europe for 12 months while working remotely.
Then there’s the element of risk.
There’s always risk. Committing to building a business for 5 years involves risk. Getting married and having kids entails risk. Buying a house can be risky.
But there’s a risk in non-commitment too. By always browsing and never committing, you never do anything great. You never experience the rewards that come only through commitment. And that risk? It’s guaranteed, while the risks that come through commitment may or may not happen. I’ll take that bet.
Commitment risks are overrated, while the upside potential is underrated.
The Rewards of Commitment
Without commitment, and without operating over a long time horizon, many rewards are off-limits to you.
Being deeply committed to a relationship with one person brings rewards that the perpetual dater cannot experience.
Growing one business, putting the work every day, for years brings you rewards that the opportunity-hopping, novelty-seeking wantrepreneur cannot experience.
Most great things happen on long timelines. And it’s hard to operate with a long time horizon unless you’re committed.
But there’s also an intrinsic reward to commitment that you experience long before any material rewards. And that is that it feels good to commit. A lot better than perpetually browsing, which is often driven by anxiety and feels unbearably light and unserious.
There’s something satisfying about working through the boredom. About going to the gym every day even when you don’t feel like it because you’re committed to becoming strong. About spending time with your kids when all you want to do is go play golf, because you’re committed to raising them well. About rejecting shiny objects when trying to build your business, even in most difficult of times.
When you’re committed, you can embrace this boredom and this struggle with resilience. When you’re not committed, you’ll fold. Every time.
A phrase I constantly tell myself now, when I’m afraid to commit, is that “Commitment is its own reward.”
21 Ideas on Simplicity
1. Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. The best strategies, plans, ideas, and opportunities are often the most simple.
2. There are two types of simplicity. One which is easy to find, the other which is on the other side of complexity. Most people won’t work through the complexity to exploit the hidden simplicity.
4. Ask: “How simple can you make it?” While also asking “How complex does it have to be?”
5. When in doubt, eliminate. This applies to many things: writing, planning, business, composing, design, etc.
6. If you can’t define your strategy on one page, it’s not simple enough.
7. If something seems simple to you but not others, you’ve hit the jackpot.
8. Just because something seems simple to you and not others, it doesn’t mean you should doubt yourself or make the thing more complex.
9. “The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.” —Hans Hoffman
10. Most things are never complex as they seem, we just want to think they’re complex to avoid taking action.
11. True simplicity is elegant and whole. It’s not lacking. It’s effective. It slices through the noise. It’s exactly what it needs to be. Nothing more, nothing less.
12. When you find yourself overthinking and procrastinating, ask: “What’s the simplest path ahead of me that will produce the results I desire?”
13. If you don’t know what you desire, the answer won’t be found in complexity. It will be found in simple, action-centric experimentation. Not grand, complex strategic planning.
14. Not everything needs to be simple. There’s beauty in the complex routine of brewing coffee a certain way, for example. But this is intentional complexity, done for the purpose of enjoyment.
15. Simplicity says: “get to 70% certainty and then take action so you can acquire more data.” Complexity says: “get to 100% certainty before you take action.”
16. Simplicity says: “the obvious solution is likely the right solution.” Complexity says: “there’s no way it can be this simple. Keep thinking and strategizing.”
17. Ask: “Am I making this more complicated than it needs to be so I can avoid taking action?”
18. Build the habit of radically distilling your own thoughts. Ideally in writing.
19. The ability to explain complex topics in a simple fashion shows true understanding and knowledge.
20. “Most geniuses—especially those who lead others—prosper not by deconstructing intricate complexities but by exploiting unrecognised simplicities.” —Andy Benoit
21. Without deadlines, pressure, and some sense of urgency, it’s easy to get lost in the sea of complexity. Create the conditions that demand simplicity of action.
The best of what I consumed last week
I consumed a lot last week, diving into the topic of commitment (hence this newsletter). I’m working on a longer-form essay and YouTube video on the topic, which is taking more time than I expected, but I want it to be solid.
On that topic specifically:
- Hugging The X-Axis by David Perell. I almost don’t want to write my own piece on the topic because this one is so damn good.
- Dedicated – The Case for Commitment in an Age of Infinite Browsing by Pete Davis
- Liquid Modernity by Zygmunt Bauman
- The Optionality Trap by Neil Soni
- The Trouble With Optionality by Mihir A. Desai
Outside of that:
- Jeremy Giffon on The Audience of One podcast. Enjoyed listening to this. Giffon has refreshing, contrarian ideas. For example, he believes the future is more religious, not less, and does a good job explaining why. The episode with David Perell is also great.
- Mt. Athos Monk’s Republic documentary. A relaxing, insightful documentary on an island community of Greek Orthodox monks.
Thanks for reading!