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To Become Wise, Do Less!
Embrace leisure and abhor the need to always be productive to actually become productive
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Leisure gives the scribe the chance to acquire wisdom
In our world where the current zeitgeist is of being productive(hustle culture), where our calendars and hours are filled with events in the aim of succeeding, and where productivity channels have grown on mediums such as youtube, have we truly become productive?
In one of my previous posts, I impressed the importance of not engaging the mind in the intense pursuit of too many things at once. In this post, I make the case for incorporating leisure into our intellectual and creative processes to gain wisdom that leads to intellectual breakthroughs.
Leisure gives the scribe the chance to acquire wisdom; a man with few commitments can grow wise. How can the ploughman become wise, whose sole ambition is to wield the goad, driving his oxen, engrossed in their work, his conversation limited to bullocks, his thoughts absorbed in the furrows he traces and his long evenings spent in fattening heifers?
Sirach 38: 24-26
According to ancient wisdom, leisure appears to be a necessary condition to acquire wisdom. Wisdom generates insights which can lead to breakthroughs that creates immense productivity. We need to have time where we can reflect, think and generate insights. With leisure one can allow the unconscious mind to bring forth new ideas and solve present challenges.
Do not think that you will become wise and make breakthroughs from leisure alone
You must focus and work hard on a thing/subject first. It’s the leisure after the focused work that creates the step up in value. Henri Poincare, the mathematical genius and polymath mentioned “the role of the unconscious work in mathematical invention appears to me incontestable”. In his words:
Often when one works at a hard question, nothing good is accomplished at the first attack. The one takes a rest, longer or shorter, and sits down anew to the work. During the first half hour, as before, nothing is found, and then all of a sudden the decisive idea presents itself to the mind.
Henri Poincare - Science and Method
That unconscious work is seen in rest through leisure. Not to get it confused, the hard work is necessary. However it is important to consider two things: Having less things to do is needed to pursue singular commitments such as advancing mathematical knowledge; and leisure is important in allowing the unconscious make those breakthroughs.
But to seek leisure is evil and unbecoming of hyper achievers “they say”
To this I answer with a quote from John Lubbock in The Use of Life
Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under the trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of water, or watching the clouds float across the blue sky, is by no means a waste of time.
Embrace leisure and integrate it into your intellectual life if judgement that comes from wisdom is what you seek.
The legendary management consultant Peter Drucker once mentioned that “The successful person places more attention on doing the right thing rather than doing things right”.
On a personal note, I have found myself recently stressed out; probably as a result of simultaneously working full time as a software engineer in tech and doing my MBA at a world class institution. To get the insights to take my career to the next level, I must integrate leisure. I am borrowing a tactic from Poincare and integrating rest into my schedule; for me, it’s been wondering country side in the garden of England - Kent - during my weekends and cycling with no direction every evening.
Hever Castle Golf Course. source: 19th hole mag:
It’s in leisure that we have time to contemplate on the vision we want for our life, reflect on how far we have come and assess if our current actions align with our live purpose.
I will end this post by reiterating: Embrace leisure and integrate it into your intellectual life if judgement that comes from wisdom is what you seek. It’s leisure that gives a person the chance to acquire wisdom.
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