Fascination and Obsession
How to Keep Going...and Going...and Going...
Obsession and Fascination both keep you focused, but Fascination is more sustainable (and fun).
Determination is a meme.
We know it as a montage in media.
We see our solitary hero working day and night - undeterred by the challenges they face…and continue to face over and over and over again.
A lonely lamp lighting the room. A desk filled with books. Half finished cups of coffee scattered about.
And just before we (the voyeur) get bored, our hero starts to see some trickle of success.
Plug in whatever narrative details you want, but we all sorta know from our years of story consumption that receiving rewards is supposed to follow working hard and we all sorta know what working hard looks like.
It’s how we project fairness onto an inherently stochastic world.
And yet there’s a lot of truth to it - even with the exceptions of wealth, class, and privilege.
So assuming working hard brings good things sometimes and determination lets us work hard…how do we become and stay determined?
Lots of ways! People are complex.
Sometimes the holy light of discipline is invoked as the only solution, but honestly we don’t need a perfect answer here.
We just need one that’s good enough.
And the good enough answer is that determined people generally have either an obsession or a fascination with the thing they’re determined to do.
Words have Meaning
There are two levels here.
There’s the objective reality underlying whatever is driving our Individual here.
There’s also the narrative reality that surrounds the Individual as they do their driving.
I’m talking about the former, but you’re used to hearing about the latter.
Let me explain.
If a storyteller - be it a journalist, a novelist, a songwriter, a professor, your coworker, etc - talks about someone and they want you to perceive the person as a protagonist in the story the storyteller is telling they’ll use fascination language.
They’ll be driven. They’ll discover things. They’ll see what others couldn’t see through sheer force of will. They will basically embody early arc John Nash.
A beautiful mind with the ability to commune with the world in ways that others will not or cannot. One who is fascinated about the innate truth hidden all around them…and while they may exhibit some “quirks”, they are still definitely, clearly, for sure the hero.
And if a storyteller - the same ol’ crew - wants to tell a story about someone who they want you to perceive as the villain…well they’re going to use obsession language.
They’ll be consumed. They’ll tear things apart. They’ll be so possessed by their pursuit of something that they stop seeing anything else. So…late arc John Nash.
The tortured mind without the ability to recognize how far gone they are and how even as they achieve goal after goal…the means weren’t worth the end. The antagonist who did it, but at what cost?
I ain’t talking about that.
Sometimes it’s close to the objective reality, but it's rarely an earnest account.
Because the reality is that everybody is both sometimes. Usually one more than the other, but definitely usually both.
Obsession and Fascination
Obsession is an expression of the id.
It’s a desire to do something.
It’s how we go from here to there when we really really really need to get there.
Accordingly, it’s an energy drain. It’s your body expending all of itself to do the thing. Its natural end state is the rhabdomyolysis of the spirit.
It’s pretty effective though.
Fascination, on the other hand, is an expression of self-transcendence.
It’s a desire to know something.
It’s how we think about over there from here when we would love to understand what’s going on there.
This makes it a source of energy. You are nourished by the perpetual quenching of your gnomish thirst. It doesn’t have an end state.
And there’s the trick of the thing.
It’s [unfortunately] hard to be fascinated all the time.
Not because being fascinated is hard (it’s the easiest thing in the world to feel once you feel it), but because the cumulative weight of the other stuff in your life distracts you from the child-like joy of being fascinated by that neat bug you just found.
It’s an innocence and earnestness and fleeting feeling that ends up happening in spurts when you accidentally slip into flow.
So how do you compensate for the times you can’t get out of your own way to let your be fascinated with that wonderful thing you’re trying to accomplish?
No judgment - just keep an eye on that health bar.
I hope this added value to your day.
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