Discover more from The Comma Project by Devin Baker
The Renaissance Person: Beyond the biohacker
Balance over optimization
The other week, I was talking with a teammate of mine from Tally about the mindset of people who would be interested in our product, and I had a thought.
I think we’ve moved beyond the biohacker, and into something new. I think this new is best described as the balanced person. Or, with some flair, maybe the renaissance person.
The biohacker pursues optimization. Cutting of the fat, the excess, the unnecessary. Improving key metrics, checking the boxes, up-and-to-the-right.
I think pursuit of self-betterment is necessary, rewarding, and even noble. Certainly worth doing. But, I think as we’ve gone all-in down this route over the last decade or two at the expense of the softer edges and indulgences of our day-to-day, it’s left something to be desired.
The COVID era exacerbated this. It forced into stark relief the worldly things we were doing day-to-day, and made it easier to reflect on and acknowledge what mattered and what didn’t. For many, myself included, once we were forced to get rid of much of the day-to-day routines we often mindlessly walked (noise), it seems that we found meaning (signal) in life’s softer edges. That the costs of rampant optimization were steep.
We found that those indulgences we cut and shamed ourselves for in our pre-COVID lives added a depth and richness to the day-to-day. And, after all, when our social calendars were cleared, the day-to-day was what mattered.
The seemingly indulgent homemade pasta dinner with fresh parmesan and a glass of wine (with gluten! dairy! and booze!), or the daily lunchtime walk outdoors (away from the computer! for 45 whole minutes! in the middle of the work day!) were suddenly what elevated our enjoyment of the days and weeks. And to think we never allowed ourselves those mini-gifts without a global pandemic.
To be clear, this isn’t a statement against self-improvement, or discipline, or for complete “letting go” and becoming indulgent.
To the contrary, I think the re-introduction of these elements to our lives is an embodiment of this mindset shift and is precisely the pursuit we now think about - from biohacker and optimizer to balanced individual. These elements are here to stay. Not either/or, but both/and. The re-introduction of nuance into our lives. The renaissance person.
If intelligence is the ability to hold two contradictory ideas in the mind at the same time (shout out Scott Fitzgerald), perhaps balance is the ability to fill a day with appropriate doses of both ends of the optimization/indulgence spectrum.
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