On starting from scratch
There is great value in starting over from scratch. I realized it very late in life. I will try to convince you why you should start from scratch (with whatever you are doing).
Back when I was a kid, every summer I picked up an extreme task to flex on my fellow classmates (I was a moron). For example, I once memorized an entire deck of cards to impress my school crush on a field trip (my memory failed me tho). One such summer, I decided to master the Rubik's cube.
The idea was that, like Chris Gardner, I will learn to solve a Rubik's cube on my own. After almost 2 weeks of hard work, I was able to come up with an algorithm to solve the first 2 layers (from the bottom):
Ok, I'll be honest, you don't need an algorithm for the first two layers. With enough messing around, solving the first layer becomes trivial.
Then for the second layer, you simply need to set the edges in place. Sounds easy but it's a bit tricky. I noticed that solving some corners on layer-1 gave me a solved edge on layer-2 for free. Eventually, I realized that the trick was to solve corners on layer-1 along with the edge on layer-2. Later I realized that this was an algorithm called F2L.
Now the last challenge was the third layer. This was becoming very exciting. I was almost at the end and I invested a lot of my time and energy into getting here.
I wrestled with the cube for a few days and somehow got 6 colors on the Rubik cube's last layer. It looked something like this:
And this is where the trouble started. I couldn't touch the cube after this. I was too scared to do the next move. "What if I'm never able to get these 6 colors on the last layer again?" I asked myself. Somewhere deep down I realized that I couldn't fit the required complex movements into my intuition to solve this layer.
I put the cube away that summer because disturbing the cube would mean that I'd have to throw away all my hard work and mental investment that went into this... I did eventually learn how to solve the cube with proper algorithm manuals.
Looking back, I realized that starting from scratch was inevitable. What was a scarier realization was that you desperately cling to something you spent a lot of time & energy on because it's very hard to digest a reality where it could all be meaningless.
The feeling of despair, induced by the loss of meaning/purpose, is fucking awful.
The Pretty lady on Twitter
Let's take another case study: I once saw a pretty lady on Twitter. I decided to then paint her. I had never painted a person digitally before but I was okayish at art so why not?
I spent probably 8-10 hours painting this monstrosity on Autodesk's Sketchbook (the actual lady is prettier):
Note that I had no idea about brushes, blending, layers etc. All of this was on a single layer and single brush. I was failing miserably at this.
But then again, I reminded myself that I'm getting attached to the painting just because of the amount of effort I put into this bull shit. The proportions were off, the colors were crap, and the technique was no good either.
I started a new canvas, and took my time to get the proportions right. This time I created a new layer to paint things. And actually used the blend tool.
It took me 4 hours to get here but the result was much much better:
(I can spot the flaws in this painting much more easily that anyone else can)
- Getting things right the first time is a condition that you give yourself to feel that you are worth something?
- Starting from scratch is a skill. It taught me that despair is just another emotion. Real growth happens when you embrace meaninglessness and keep iterating.
- Starting from scratch requires courage
- Inability to start over is not just an individual-level problem but something that large organizations do too.
If you are reading this:
- Go re-do that art project
- Go re-write that bloated software that your company has developed over the last 3.5 years
- Go install Tinder again
- Go and re-submit that university application
"One must imagine Sisyphus happy"