The formula for mastery is:
Mastery = time x attention x ego x love
The formula for excellence, which I picked up from Shadow Divers, is:
Excellence = preparation, dedication, focus and tenacity.
My daily standard is:
Med / 2R / Wr / Tr / Pr
My ideal workflow or process for a day is:
Meditate. Read. Write. Move. Show you work. Explore.
I created a list of thirteen lenses. Big ideas through which I wished to see the world. I’ve got rules for handling misfortune. Rituals for enhancing creativity, starting the day and finishing the day.
As you can see, I’m a sucker for a formula.
Now consider this passage from The Way to Love:
“To walk alone—that means to walk away from every formula—the ones given to you by others, the ones you learned from books, the ones that you yourself invented in the light of your own past experience. That is possibly the most terrifying thing a human being can do: move into the unknown, unprotected by any formula. To walk away from the world as the prophets and mystics did is not to walk away from their company but from their formulas. Then, even though you are surrounded by people, you are truly and utterly alone. What an awesome solitude! That solitude, that aloneness is Silence. It is only this Silence that you will see. And the moment you see you will abandon every book and guide and guru.”
A formula is an abstraction. A simplification. It is a concise, explicit summary of tacit knowledge.
Except, you can’t really explain tacit knowledge. Love is an example. We all know what love is. We know it when we see it, we know it when we receive it, we know it when we give it. But we cannot describe it. That is why artists throughout history and far into the future will continue to be fascinated by it.
Yet when we create a formula, we try to make the implicit, explicit. Like explaining love, it’s a fruitless task.
A formula is attractive. It means we don’t have to do the work. If we have the formula, we think we can skip the years that went into creating it. So we search them out. We look for patterns and themes. We look for confirming evidence and try to reduce everything to it’s barest bones, in order to carry it around in our skull.
I do the same. Most of my reading resembles a hunt for a simple formula to resolve complex problems.
But when you spend your time and energy looking for a formula, you’re missing out. Explicit knowledge, which is what a formula attempts to be, makes up a small percentage of our lives. So by seeking the formula, the neatly packaged, easy to remember formula, we neglect life. We miss out on it.
By seeking an explicit formula, we cut ourselves off from the richness and depth of implicit knowledge. And by doing that, we cut ourselves off from everything we were looking for in the first place: Understanding. Truth.
As Matthew Crawford says in The Case for Working with Your Hands: “The basic idea of tacit knowledge is that we know more than we can say, and certainly more than we can specify in a formulaic way.”