This week, equilibrium.
Hello again reader—here a new reflection for the week.
Uncertainty plagues all meaningful pursuits; if we are to do our best work in the face of uncertainty, perhaps we must first hone perspectives that allow us to stay the creative path. So in these notes I reflect on various themes. This week, equilibrium.
I've found that a useful way to think about an ecosystem is as a balance of elements whose various outputs become each other's inputs. From the time I picked up my first 'How Things Work' book as a child, I've loved this concept behind the engineering of a turbocharger. It takes what would otherwise be useless car exhaust and uses it to power a compressor, sending air back into the engine that's more oxygen-rich. The idea of one thing's exhaust powering another thing's functional input has become something of a metaphor that I turn to constantly.
I think of it specifically while considering why resolutions are hard to keep and habits are hard to develop. Too often these things are simply outputs with no existing inputs—elements out of equilibrium. Making smart use of the turbocharger metaphor is Nir Eyal here with his series on habit design, built around what he calls "desire engines."
Designer Peter Nguyen brings it home for us here in an imperative to make 2015 The Year of Systems. "Systems are goals as physics is to judo" he notes, reflecting on the martial art's grounding in balance. Just as "elite athletes don't just show up on fight day and try hard," it's worth considering that habits don't just show up one arbitrary day at the beginning of the year, even if by resolution.