041 – living the fundamental Quality loop

The craft-ship mindset, that’s what’s on my mind today. Craft on multiple dimensions
– objects
– experiences and moments
– relationships and intersubjectivity

Few days ago, I tweeted: “Every moment you live can be a work of art. Including this one” which is exactly what I mean by crafting continuously one’s own experiences and moments.

Design is the fancy word for craft. Craft is the humble, grounded, care of shaping something according to one’s taste. Design can sound a little more arrogant and wanting to shape thing beyond one’s remit, as a designer is usually so for endeavour of greater scope, but that’s semantic and interpretable so I am not going down that road.

Anyway, back to why craft is on my mind.

Craft is on my mind because I am realising that at the end of the day, life is all about Quality. What do I mean by that? One basic and fundamental loop that generates energy for me works this way
1 – notice being alive and engage with the circumstances present around me
2 – move your cosmic hands to shape those circumstances into something that has more Quality
3 – doing (2) increases my engagement in (1): which generates a loop of energy and motivation to repeat

This loop is increasingly making its way into everything I experience and do. It is slowly replacing other prior existing mindsets and motivational stances.

It is not just craft and design. Quality also means living by one’s values and aesthetics and follows the philosophical stance that Visakanv, Joe Edelman and everyone else who primarily seeks to live a good life follows.

It may be interesting to highlight a little what are the other loops being replaced. For example, a typical loop I used to engage in was
1 – lean into what I seems to be compelled to want lately
2 – conjure and plan and to move towards that want
3 – take some actions to kickstart the plan
4 – realise I have long abandoned the plan and need to restart to feel good with myself

This is a more goal oriented mentality in which what matters is defining a destination and getting there. It didn’t feel energising and pleasant to experience and I mostly lost motivation throughout execution and felt I needed to coerce myself or lose self esteem. I think this kind of strategic loops are useful where there is a super clear destination that we are super clear we are motivated to reach no matter what (eg being able to afford basic life conditions) but these situations are actually rare in my personal experience. Whenever things are undefined and unclear, adopting a basic loop aimed at increasing the Quality of the present conditions even by a little feels like a much better way to live.

The hard bit is that Quality is best left undefined but not completely. The work of Joe Edelman aim very much at defining Quality for each person so that we can explicitly design for it, so it is going in the complete opposite direction. However, one the grand challenges when doing this is that systems that aim for Quality (like a human being or a group) seem to be functioning best when leaving Quality undefined and focusing on improving it.

One of the reason that may be true is some circumstances is that defining Quality is really really hard and would take so much time away from actually trying to increase it that we may as well just not define it. Think about writing, if an author spent a lot of time trying to define what Quality writing meant to them, they could end up doing this forever instead of actually creating that Quality writing.

Here’s another way of saying it. We are constantly learning and discovering Quality. Defining Quality is elusive because expresses Quality in another dimension (definitional Quality) and not Quality about the thing itself we were looking at in terms of Quality. Doing something of Quality is a way of express Quality itself.

Or another way to think about it. Defining Quality feels goal oriented and brings us into planning mode. In some sense this presupposes that we can contain the world inside our minds and synthesise a state of such world that has recognisable Quality. This way of thinking feels predictive, self-centred and full of hubris. It assumes we know so much more than we do, that we can fit in our minds so much more than we can. It also leaves out surprises and discoveries.

Teasing out Quality from the current circumstances is a little more like exploring, playing and following scents. It leaves room for surprises and change. That’s why works best for expressing Quality, because it doesn’t assume that we know, that we see and that we can plan against it. It proceeds by trial and error, taking advantage and learning from all the little mistakes. It is also, in this sense, anti-fragile.

Mind you, I am not saying that we should have or develop a sense of what Quality is. We definitely need that in order to explore and play, we just don’t need and should be wary of trying to define it and ending up transforming our pursuits in plans and goals.

This is something I felt like I instinctively knew for a long time and only lately is coming things with a fully realisation of how the dynamics of this work and how I can communicate and covey my stance about it.

My Quality

I usually like to end this little blurbs of words with a move towards practice. Asking myself what the thing I wrote means in practice for me. In this case, something that makes sense to do in the context of this writing is to try explore, express and convey my sense of Quality. Not trying to define what Quality is for me. But just giving it a sense, such as by recalling where I experienced it.

  • I see Quality in Tasshin’s blog and how he writes posts (and books!) or records podcasts that he cares about and that well convey something interesting, something worth knowing. It may not be a coincidence to read on that “The essays shared on my blog are typically longer-form writing, with a high bar for quality.” I must also add that I haven’t read any Tasshin’s post (perhaps skimmed a few) but I can still perceive the Quality. The point is not “oh this is so useful for me (tho maybe it would be if I read it)” but rather “this is of quality”. And this changes the motivation too. In doing this to express Quality we are not primarily seeking usefulness. Usage is an uncontrollable result of Quality and I am probably best not worrying about it. It is funny to realise that worrying primarily about something mattering to others is not of Quality (because it is hard to access and control so the act of worrying doesn’t increase Quality).
  • I see Quality in Visakanv’s tweets and how many of the utterances he has on the platform appears to be extremely well thought-through, relevant and relatable. Recently, I also felt that I can move in that direction by thinking just a tiny little bit hard about the Quality of what I am about to write.
  • I see Quality in the consistency and persistence that Chenchen puts into things. In how she keeps showing up and going to the gym no matter what, and always doing so gently yet determinedly. I see the Quality of doing that expressed in her body. I also see Quality in how she really think about what things mean, especially when trying to understand the experience of others.
  • I see Quality in how Tony Dinh develops software and, perhaps even more, in how he communicates on Twitter about the software he develops. Seems so seamless and casual and relaxed, but actually I expected there is a lot of deliberation and involvement in creating that Quality and a lot of prior experiencing practice developing good software.
  • I see Quality in how Aella thinks about what she experiences and how she chooses to challenge it and explore different things, without much worry. I see Quality in how she communicated about it, provocatively yet also somewhat candidly and simply.
  • I see Quality in Dall-E and how it enables personal and Quality experiences of creating images to express concepts we care about

I also see Quality in things that I do in many ways, which brings me joy to realise

  • I see Quality in how I am evolving my clothing and accessories taste. I feel Quality in the way my hands and fingers feel when I wear rings or the way my body moves when I wear jeans I love or colourful shirts that make me radious and happy
  • I see Quality when I develop software deliberately, intentionally, mindfully and thoughtfully. When I keep a regular log of what I thinking, trying and observing in developing the software. When I am truly learning about the underlying workings of the system I am using or interacting with and I am documenting my learnings in a usable manner. When I thinking about my users and their experience with as much empathy as possible. I can see how all this results as Quality in the software I am writing.
  • I see Quality in how I craft really enjoyable experiences for myself or others when I fully focus on them. When I prepare the room, finding the perfect position, music and drink to accompany an intellectual activity. When I iterate and find the right flow and circumstances for a group activity. When I do the thing that I like and is good for me in a way that is both spontaneous, easy and supportive. Like going for a walk in the sunshine after some intense focus and spending some time during that walk talking with others online.

I love writing this list. Noticing Quality makes me happy. I also notice that experiencing things of seemingly low Quality or interacting with people that doesn’t seem to have as much interested or care for Quality disturbs me.

I am also developing a sense of Quality is isomorphic to becoming articulate about values. Quality and Meaning are the same thing.

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