Adulting is hard, and I wonder why.
On the one hand, it is easy to make fun of grown humans lamenting about not knowing how to clean the house, meet new people or cook. On the other, there is a number of life skills that I feel like we would all benefit from, and yet I’m not confident we all perform them at a level we aspire to:
- Cooking healthy meals without effort and a big deal
- Maintaining healthy fitness habits
- Meeting new friends and maintaining relationships in adulthood
- Dealing with stress, politics, and competing expectations at work
- Finding joy and fulfillment at work and dealing with marketing ourselves in the job market
- Dealing with expectations and caring for our parents and grandparents
- Managing home projects and the basics of repairing and maintaining stuff
- Managing our budgets, investing, and thriving as a tiny part of Capitalism
- Dating and Parenting are whole other stories
Discussing those topics in adulthood is like talking about sex in junior high school: We are all sure everybody else has this figured out while being too ashamed to admit we could use a few pointers ourselves. Yes, of course, my fridge has plenty (of healthy meals), and it’s sooo good. Why do you ask?
Some of us deal with this by making fun of our own incompetence – cue all the “adulting” memes about eating only takeout and barely keeping up with rent.
Others not only seem like but really do have everything figured out. They are effortlessly organized and manage to do stuff on time without drama or valiant battles. Where is the difference?
It’s always Plato’s fault.
I know it’s a cheap shot, but I couldn’t deny myself blaming Plato again: He pioneered the idea of mind-body duality and the toxic notion that purely intellectual pursuits are somehow nobler.
We teach children the number of sheep in 1957 Yugoslavia and the exact dates of every minor battle instead of valuable skills that they will really need. But the real lesson kids will remember is that personal logistics skills are not worth learning. After all, the sheep exam is coming.
For those not fortunate enough to learn these skills at home, their ignorance of them becomes a point of pride: they are made for better things in life.
The highly stratified societies of the past could get away with the “upper class” learning only about topics they could comment on in their mansions, balls, and gentlemen’s clubs. With the (arguably) more equal societies of today, we are teaching another generation not to bother themselves with the down-to-earth. It’s like we are all royalty.
Modernity likes the helpless you.
Compared to the past generations, we live like royalty thanks to the smoothly running society where you can outsource any task to a professional. By paying for every little thing in life, you grease the gears of commerce and keep people employed and needed, all while getting the level of indulgence unheard of before (like Doner Kebab on demand).
This is not necessarily bad, but:
- You need a certain level of competence to delegate. Learning the basics of everything is always a good idea.
- By doing things yourself (aka “vertically integrated”), you can ensure a higher quality than by delegating. This may sound counterintuitive, but this is how luxury brands operate (Apple is one prominent example)
- You cannot outsource making friends. You may only pretend.
- Everything you feel is beneath you will eventually blindside you.
Personal logistics is a learnable and transferrable skillset
I was a scout for 14 years, spending every summer building a camp to live with my friends for the following month. These are one of the best memories of my childhood, and apart from specific skills, they taught me mostly that I can figure things out, the building is fun, and everything is learnable.
Over the last 10 years, a space of Personal Productivity has emerged to transfer business learnings to help individuals manage their personal affairs, learnings, and knowledge. I hope we can extend this movement to include a variety of tacit knowledge that was previously passed around by grandmas, mixed with timeless advice updated for the modern world. Business logistics principles can help you manage your fridge and the experience of running a smooth household transfers to being a dependable professional.
We need more curators.
There is an enormous opportunity to repackage timeless ideas, curate youtube videos and create a basic human curriculum for the next generation.
On the one hand, humanity did not change that much over the last 50 years, on the other – the world changed quite a lot. We all need the same things as our grandparents, but our environment is quite different.
Send me your best instructional Youtube videos about mundane stuff. I am recently exploring how to teach my baby daughter to swim.
Random curated advice
- Tom Vanderbilt shares the joys and transformative power of lifelong learning on the Art of Manliness podcast.
- Freddie Wong explains that filtering for 3.5 stars when searching for Chinese restaurants finds those good enough to stay in business despite providing mediocre customer service.
- Visakan shares his tips on how to DM your heroes so they respond if they ever end up following your on Twitter:
- 1. specific proof-of-work: “I’ve been a fan of your work and writing since the livejournal days”
- 2. share sth specific about yourself, their influence on you: “your work shaped the way I now do X”
- 3. ask easy-to-answer specific Q