Avoiding the Middle Ground | Thomas J. Bevan on Infinite Loops Podcast with Jim O’Shaughnessy

Key Takeaways

  • The middle feels safe, but it’s dangerous and dull
    • You’re on Twitter all day but not doing anything of meaning with it
  • On the other hand, the edges are free even though you feel less safe
    • Learning and studying with a clear objective, i.e. going all out
    • Doing something fun and mindless like watching cartoons
  • Everyone should keep a commonplace book and develop a habit of collecting thoughts, moments of introspection, etc.
    • Get to know yourself and what you think; it’s a low-pressure context because there is no audience to write for
    • You can look back observe yourself from a more detached viewpoint (so you don’t fool yourself) 
  • The Soaring 20s Social Club is like Dead Poets Society – private, transformative, creative, and empowering
    • Thomas’ club in an attempt to remedy the distraction-filled lifestyle we follow day in day out; a space to be creative, work on your craft, and get supportive feedback
  • When you have a self-defined meaning behind your suffering, it makes it more endurable
    • “The pearl of depression is how you survived that depression. The pearl of anxiety is how you’ve learned to manage anxiety.”Thomas Bevan
  • Jim has seen every European capital from London to Paris to Berlin on foot
    • Walking is the only way to truly understand a city

Key Books and Essays Mentioned

Intro

  • Thomas J. Bevan (@thomasjb3van) is an up-and-coming writer, author of a Substack called The Commonplace, and the owner of The Soaring 20s Social Club (an invite-only Discord group)
  • In this episode of Infinite Loops Podcast, Jim and Thomas discuss the lost art of commonplacing, what makes suffering worthwhile, and why getting stuck in the middle ground will make your life frustrating
  • Host – Jim O’Shaughnessy (@jposhaughnessy)

Avoid the Middle Ground in All Things

  • The middle feels safe, but it’s dangerous and dull
    • You’re on Twitter all day but not doing anything of meaning with it
    • You play guitar but have no purpose or method for improvement, and you wonder why you can’t progress
    • Side hustles that don’t develop any skills or money income
  • On the other hand, the edges are free even though you feel less safe
    • Learning and studying with a clear objective, i.e. going all out
    • Doing something fun and mindless like watching cartoons
  • “Those at the middle of the curve, being insecure and unsure of its position in the game of life, are always striving.”Thomas Bevan
  • How to avoid the middle?
    • “Either ascetic simplicity or all-out ambition.”Thomas Bevan
    • For Thomas, avoiding the middle is choosing between two extremes
    • Whatever the road you’re going to take, take that road with determination and fully commit
    • Also, you can do opposed things at the same time (read “trash” and do it guilt-free, but also read “hard” books)
  • Disclaimer: Don’t take any of this seriously, that will put you right in the middle
  • What Made Thomas Write This Essay?
    • He didn’t think a lot about it, there was no prior planning
    • He makes strict deadlines and just writes something
    • This kind of approach makes sense if want to avoid the middle
    • He was inspired by the IQ Bell Curve meme
    • “Why just have a picture when you can bang on about it for thousands of words?” – Thomas Bevan

The Idea of a Commonplace Journal

  • Commonplacing is the act of compiling knowledge for future reference
    • Thomas and Jim advise everyone to keep a commonplace book and develop a habit of collecting thoughts, moments of introspection, etc.
  • Benefits of commonplace journaling:
    • The best first step for aspiring writers
    • Organize your thoughts and generate new ideas
    • Get to know yourself and what you think; it’s a low-pressure context because there is no audience to write for
    • You can look back observe yourself from a more detached viewpoint (so you don’t fool yourself) 
  • We Are Unreliable Narrators
    • This is especially true when memory is involved
    • Things that we think are our memories get constantly updated and rewritten by our operating system
    • “It’s a wonderful tonic to be called a liar in your own handwriting”. – Jim O’Shaughnessy
  • Stasis = Death
    • Why are we scared of awareness?
    • Because it feels more comfortable in the short term
    • When you don’t challenge your views, the world is less complicated
    • It may seem like a good strategy, but any strategy that involves being static leads to disaster
    • Things can’t stay like that indefinitely, and that’s why you need epistemic humility
    • Accept new information and adapt your worldview

The Soaring 20s Social Club

  • The Soaring 20s Social Club is like Dead Poets Society – private, transformative, creative, and empowering
    • Instead of a classroom, their meeting place is Discord, and instead of John Keating (Robin Williams), they have Thomas Bevan
    • Thomas’ club in an attempt to remedy the distraction-filled lifestyle we follow day in day out; a space to be creative, work on your craft, and get supportive feedback
  • It’s not only for writers, there are designers, lawyers, musicians, programmers, and they even have a guy who likes scythes
    • “Over a year or so, I’ve been trying to lasso the kind of people who get what I’m saying and aren’t completely caught up in that hustle culture or don’t want to be anymore.”Thomas Bevan
    • It’s a private group, so you only get in if you become a premium member on Thomas’ Substack

Suffering Is Inevitable, but It Can Be Meaningful

  • He [Who] Knows the “Why” for His Existence… Will Be Able to Bear Almost Any “How”. – Friedrich Nietzsche
    • Thomas uses this self-referential quote in his essay “Diving for Pearls” to express the importance of meaning and purpose when tied to human actions
  • Suffering is inevitable, but it can be meaningful
    • It’s impossible and makes no sense to spend your life “avoiding” suffering (that’s some middle ground bullsh*t)
  • Thomas remarks how writers are sometimes stereotypically portrayed as quiet and depressive
    • In a way, this is the side effect of diving into “the depths” of your being
    • But, if you can grab the pearl (a piece of wisdom), and bring it to the surface then it makes it worthwhile 
  • When you have a self-defined meaning behind your suffering, it makes it more endurable
    • “The pearl of depression is how you survived that depression. The pearl of anxiety is how you’ve learned to manage anxiety.”Thomas Bevan

On Walking

  • Jim has seen every European capital from London to Paris to Berlin on foot
    • Walking is the only way to truly understand a city
  • Thomas walks at least a couple of hours a day; it’s where he gets his best ideas
    • You are thinking at the speed you are walking at; the motion and the fresh air help
  • “And you don’t even realize you have problems or thoughts, but they’ll just come to you andyou’ll try and solve them.” Thomas Bevan
Infinite Loops : , , , ,
Notes By Dario

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