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Via Negativa

What is success?

It's a hard question to answer.  Success could be measured in power.  In money.  In satisfaction.  In the impact made on others' lives.  In a life well-lived.  It's easier to describe what success is not.

This technique has been used to define abstract concepts for millennia.  Via Negativa, neti neti.  Charlie Munger says, “Invert, always invert."  You can understand a concept by seeing what it's not.  And you can take action by avoiding the opposite.  Munger is famous for his quote, "All I want to know is where I'm going to die, so I'll never go there."

Earlier, I talked about struggling to define creativity.  I said that if you pursue autonomy, mastery, and purpose, you would find creativity.  But I don't think that's good enough.  What exactly are autonomy, mastery, and purpose?  How can we turn these from "nod along if you want to look smart" ideas to principles we can follow in our lives?

Let's invert each of these.

Autonomy <--> Mimesis
Mastery <--> Dogmatic
Purpose <--> Boredom

Over the next three weeks, I'll talk about why I think these are oppositional forces and how we can avoid them.