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intuition vs execution
+ end of the year recs
Hernan Bas, Mystery Bouf, 2009
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I’ve always been someone who is strongly guided by intuition. When I get a feeling about a person or an idea about something I should do, I instantly take it as fact. Even when there’s very little evidence (or no evidence whatsoever), I tend to trust my first instinct. I don’t know if this sounds reasonable or completely irrational to you, but regardless over time my intuition has mostly proven trustworthy—in fact, I really regret the times I ignored or suppressed something I was feeling.
Smart people often get caught in weird thought loops when it comes to intuition. One example is, “I’m really unhappy in this situation, but maybe that’s just because I haven’t applied myself enough, and if I tried really hard it would suck less.” Another would be, “I feel uncomfortable around this person, but I don’t actually have any real justification, and they seem really nice so I don’t want to be someone who makes judgments off a baseless feeling.” And theoretically that seems totally reasonable—people do fail to apply themselves, and do judge unfairly off first impressions. But actually if you’re someone who’s torturing yourself over this you’re probably pretty thoughtful, maybe even too thoughtful, and what you probably need to do is Occam’s Razor harder (I so love using Occam’s Razor as a verb). Trust your intuition. That’s what I’ve learned, at least.
But the other big thing I’ve realizes is that intuition is different from execution. For instance, you might be like, “I would be really good at X job.” And you might be completely right. But there’s probably a meaningful amount of action that you need to take before you can prove or disprove that. If I decided that I would be really good at being a carpenter, I would first need to… learn carpentry. I think people tend to either underestimate or overestimate the difficulty of the execution step—they’re either so daunted by it they never try, or they think it will be super easy and give up as soon as they start struggling. I think the right frame is: the execution will probably be pretty difficult, but if you have a really strong intuition about something, it may very well be worth it.
Whenever things go wrong, I tend to blame myself for fucking things up. For a long time I think I was too harsh on myself—too much self-blame, not enough insight. But I think I did correctly identify that many of my problems were the result of bad execution. I was trying to turn a feeling into a reality, but I didn’t exactly know how. So I did it badly. And then sometimes I tried again, but still did it badly. And that’s okay. I cannot stress how deeply I realize now that everyone suffers from execution problems. We don’t start out being good at things. And even if we do, there’s so much room to get better.
I don’t know why, but I find that framing to be such a relief: I can be right about something, but I still have to approach it correctly. Intuition does not absolve me from execution. I think there’s a lot of advice that goes, what’s meant for you will find you. And I really, truly believe that it does. But that doesn't mean that everything is just going to work out without complications. When I decided to start writing I strongly felt it was the right choice, but I also didn’t fully understand how difficult it would be. When I met several of my close friends I knew we would be important to each other, but I didn’t know how the relationships would unfurl. And when it comes to dating, it’s always that Margaret Atwood line: “Longed for him. Got him. Shit.”
A while ago I read a metaphor that went, Getting into a relationship is like buying a car. Being in a relationship is like driving the car. For some reason it’s always stuck in my head. Here’s what I know now: wanting the car doesn’t mean you’ll end up buying the car. Buying a car doesn’t mean that you’ll like driving the car. So if you have an intuition about something and you really want to prove yourself right, be prepared to live with the consequences of following through.
END OF THE YEAR RECOMMENDATIONS
Novels published this year: I think that Acts of Service was my personal favorite novel of the year. But the one I recommend to everyone is Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow. It’s personally meaningful but also wildly popular. And I’m currently reading The Candy House and it’s amazing. I think I will do a separate book recap post so hold on for that if you are interested!
Non-fiction: In Love (a different one from the novel, haha) made me cry and cry. Getting Lost was really interesting to me, as someone who 1) really enjoys reading Ernaux and 2) was captivated by Simple Passion (this book is the journal she kept during the time she wrote that book).
Bar: I really like Bar Americana in Greenpoint. And Corner Bar in LES.
Jeans: I try to buy everything secondhand now (sometimes the SSENSE sale cracks me). But I’ve been trying to buy a pair of jeans that I can wear every day for a while and I always fail because I really, really hate when anything constricts my stomach and most denim… does that. But I finally caved and got these which are really oversized (esp if you buy them one size up, which I do) and I wear them all the time.
Gift you should get yourself: I really like this bath oil by Olverum. It’s incredibly fragrant… 1/3 of a cap is enough to make your entire bathroom smell very green.
Substacks: I recently discovered Arbiter of Distaste and really like it. I find Between a Rock and a Card Place incredibly soothing. And of course I am an eternal fan of Ask Polly and will be fangirling over it until the end of time.
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