Coming Anarchy 5, Obsession

Note: This is a selection from Coming Anarchy, part of tdaxp‘s SummerBlog ’06

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Obsession

“If he didn’t have to go to school and you would deliver his meals to his room, he would stay in there all day (Kiewra, et al. Developing young chess masters: A collective case study).”
This quote is a perfect way to describe how we learned highly creative, talented, and expert individuals felt about their domain. They were enthralled with it. They were consumed by it. It was an overriding sense of wanting to have your hands into it at all times. In a way this obsession was a good thing, because it helped to keep them motivated (usually, way past the point that most ordinary people would have stopped). However, this obsession was also a downside. Many times the obsession with their domain required enormous amounts of personal sacrifice and time alone.

Relevant Quotes From Interviews (Select):

When asked the question, “In general, how much time do you spend online purposefully, and how much not on purpose?” the following answer was elicited:
Chirol: “Most of my time is spent consuming information. I rarely download music and never movies. I also don’t play games or visit chat rooms and the like.”
When asked the questions, “Is it difficult or easy for you to take a break from writing?” and “Does your blogging take away from other things you would like to do?” the following answer was elicited:
Curzon: “Very difficult. Not writing is, to wit, like keeping the lid on a boiling pot of water… I know some people in Japan who acknowledge that smoking is bad for them, but defend their habit by saying the stress they’d suffer if they didn’t smoke makes it worth it. The same is true for me and blogging.”
When asked the questions, “Is it possible to practice in your media in other ways other than being on the computer?” and “How often do you do practice in those ways?” the following answer was elicited:
Younghusband: “Well, reading voraciously helps… whether on or offline, writing is one way to practice, but more importantly is critical thinking. I draw lots of little diagrams and look at maps a lot and think about stuff while walking and talking so discussion is a way of practice… all the time.”

Organizing The Information From The Quotes (Organize):

We see that their work in the domain is seen as an overriding work task. There appears to be purposeful practice either “most” or “all” of the time, and it is also very hard to stop. However, there are still differences in their perceptions. Notice that only one of them implied that stopping is painful (Curzon).

Association With Our Course Readings (Associate):

“Individuals who produce world-class work are totally absorbed in their careers (Weisberg, 1993).”
“[Creative individuals] work long hours, with great concentration… (Csikszentmihalyi, 1996).”
“He is passionate about it … just thrilled by it … We once took chess away and he was miserable, it was like yanking the soul out (Kiewra, et al. Developing young chess masters: A collective case study).”

Nagging Questions (Regulate):

Is the spread of identities – how much they differ relative to their essential similarity – of these creative subjects similar to the spread of identities of drug users? Both our creative subjects and drug users find that their lives seem to have been taken over by some “thing.” While we realize full well that this comparison is superficial, it is none the less quite interesting if you stop to ponder about it for a moment. Finally, how is obsession associated with our next factor, sacrifices the subjects make in order to become the most creative and talented bloggers? Do they sacrifice the things they like to do simply because they are obsessed with blogging?


Coming Anarchy, a tdaxp series:
Coming Anarchy 1: Introduction
Coming Anarchy 2: Methods and Analysis
Coming Anarchy 3: Identity
Coming Anarchy 4: Failure
Coming Anarchy 5: Obsession
Coming Anarchy 6: Sacrifices
Coming Anarchy 7: Humility
Coming Anarchy 8: Geography
Coming Anarchy 9: Recognition
Coming Anarchy 10: The Gap
Coming Anarchy 11: Conclusion

Coming Anarchy 4, Failure

Note: This is a selection from Coming Anarchy, part of tdaxp‘s SummerBlog ’06

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Limitations and Failure

“Every day each individual encounters some experiences that go well and some that don’t (Gardner, 1997).”
During our many class discussions and readings from the literature in this course, we kept coming upon this recurring notion that even the most creative and expert people which we studied failed at many points in their lives. However, what set them apart from “ordinary” people was this idea that they were able to frame their failure appropriately and learn from their mistakes (i.e. leverage it for future benefits). It wasn’t necessarily detrimental to their lives or professions, if they could just find some good or a lesson to be learned from it. In effect, we learned that it wasn’t that successful people failed less than us normal folks (in fact it was usually quite the opposite), but that they were able to learn something from everything that happened, instead of getting down on themselves or depressed about their abilities.

Relevant Quotes From Interviews (Select):

When asked the question, “What do you do when you fail?” the following answers were elicited:
Chirol: “Missing something blatant is downright embarrassing and naturally happens sometimes, however not seeing a connection between two events can also be helpful. While it may bruise my ego a little, I can ask myself why I’ve missed it? Not my area? Not enough time spent researching the topic? Not paying attention? With that, I can learn from my mistake and help to increase my perspective so to say. I try to use my mistakes to develop a kind of method to use when looking at things. Steps I can go through or questions I can ask myself to help ensure I don’t miss something.”
Curzon: “Learn from the experience. There’s nothing wrong with failing — that’s how you learn. A life without failures would be a pretty boring one.”
Younghusband: “No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”

Organizing The Information From The Quotes (Organize):

We hear again and again that failure is inevitable. However, failure does not imply personal worthlessness. It is interesting that their opinions range from interrogating failure (Chirol), to brushing it off (Curzon), to embracing it (Younghusband). So beneath the general agreement that failure is going to happen, there are substantial differences as to how you should deal with it (i.e. how you should frame the failure to be able to leverage it in the future).

Association With Our Course Readings (Associate):

“[Creative people have the] capacity to identify one’s deviance and to convert it into a competitive advantage … the capacity to construe experiences in a way that is positive, in a way that allows one to draw apt lessons and … proceed with one’s life (Gardner, 1997).”
“No matter how hard most psychologists work, they will not attain the eminence of a Herbert Simon. Most physicists will not become Einstein (Ericsson, 1996).”’

Nagging Questions (Regulate):

Are the different approaches to failure – the different ways it is embraced – further proof that there is no specific creative identity, or is the “essential” similarity good enough? Is there perhaps a specific class of creative identities?


Coming Anarchy, a tdaxp series:
Coming Anarchy 1: Introduction
Coming Anarchy 2: Methods and Analysis
Coming Anarchy 3: Identity
Coming Anarchy 4: Failure
Coming Anarchy 5: Obsession
Coming Anarchy 6: Sacrifices
Coming Anarchy 7: Humility
Coming Anarchy 8: Geography
Coming Anarchy 9: Recognition
Coming Anarchy 10: The Gap
Coming Anarchy 11: Conclusion