Maintaining the status quo by chasing the dream

New posts have arrived from two of my favorite bloggers: Hugh Macleud and Aaron Swartz. Their entries are always inspirational (though I still don't understand what Hugh's drawings are about) and today, one of them inspired me with an excellent question and the other answered with an equally brain-teasing reply. It is a rare synchronization moment realized by the RSS reader.

Hugh proposed a painful but practical suggestion: don't research your evil plan. Do it.

So ins­tead of get­ting on with it, they spend the next few years kee­ping their Nowhe­res­vi­lle day job, whilst spen­ding their eve­nings sur­fing the web, scou­ring the trade maga­zi­nes, researching everything like crazy, trying to get a tho­rough, small-time Outsider’s view about what the big-time Insi­ders are currently up to.

He points out that Larry and Sergey, the world's most famous geek duos, probably knew nothing about how the glamorous advertisement industry worked prior to the launch of Google Adsense, the world's biggest advertisement agency as of now. (This example is too "far off" our world but it does keep our attention)

He has a point, a huge point, but is not telling the whole story. Knowing that excessive research is nothing but realization of fear, why most of us stick to it, or even sometimes staunchly defend the value of drawing up meticulous blueprint before stepping out to do real actions?

So here comes Aaron Swartz for resque. This time he writes up about how unreliable our idea of intuition and morality is, and how we are easily affected by the surrounding culture, taking the accepted value as "the truth".

Imagine you were an early settler of what is now the United States. It seems likely you would have killed native Americans. After all, your parents killed them, your siblings killed them, your friends killed them, the leaders of the community killed them, the President killed them. Chances are, you would have killed them too, and you probably wouldn’t have seen anything wrong with this….

…I grew up eating animals. I saw nothing wrong with this. My parents ate them, my siblings ate them, my friends ate them, people on TV ate them, the President ate them. I doubt I stopped to think about the morality of eating animals any more than I stopped to think about the morality of brushing my teeth. If you asked me for my intuition, I would have said eating animals was just fine. It was only when I stopped eating animals that my intuitions began to change.

In other way, we do what we do without much question because everybody else does. We treat non-usual activities including following our own evil plans as anomalies, probably even as necessary evils. Looking back on my experience in Japan, getting off the socially accepted roles were all bundled under the label "adventurous" including starting one's own mom-and-pop store, working part-time to persuade theater projects, and living in a foreign country (cool) but burning the bridge by working in a local company (which I do). Each activity is unique with varying degrees of risk and rewards, but how come they were all tucked into a one-dimensional label?

It was not only because they knew nothing about those seemingly exotic activities, but also because there were only a handful of "normal" lifestyles accepted in Japan, and everything else was treated as "different." The belief that the accepted lifestyle speaks not only the norm but the truth is so strong, even now a majority of Japanese think Japan lost the "lifetime employment system" sometime in the 1990s due to the market crush. The truth is, even in Japan's economic heyday only 40% of all workers worked in companies big enough to provide the "open-ended" employment agreement.

We still tend to be fearful when thinking of *actually* following our dreams rather than thinking it out, even though statistically 100% of parents encourage their kids to live their dreams. But the eternal procrastination might have to do more with our standard lifestyle which is still based on adapting ourselves to our surroundings, than with our seemingly hard-wired fear.

The above thinking process lead me to an uncomfortable conclusion that after all, we won't be aware of our habits until we break ourselves out of them, which means we need to work on our evil plan sooner than later.