The future is about multidisciplinary expertise

Let’s say you’re a young guy in your early 20s and you just started to get some interest for body building.

You have no idea of how to work out, what a good work out is, what a good work out is not and everything else. You’re a blank canvas.

So you get a book about the foundations, you use Google to answer specific questions and Youtube for visual input. The guys on Youtube you like, you add on Twitter to be informed about blog updates from them. The passion you have for that area of expertise drives an interest for knowledge. You keep going and build a unique, but profound body of expertise in that branch.

At the same time you start to hit the gym hard. The theoretical knowledge you’ve built and keep working on is exposed to constant, immediate feedback, which helps you to re-correct the direction you’re headed in. Plus the gym workouts give way for new questions to arise, which you then get data on from your theoretical body of knowledge.

Time goes by and you’re 6 months in. You’ve been really disciplined and regular with your workouts, but you start to stagnate. Your measurements show no growth anymore. You don’t know what’s going on. You keep going and try to overcome that plateau with the theoretical knowledge and practical experience you’ve gained within body building. You tweak your workout routine, you try new exercises, different sets and intervalls. Nothing helps.

Weeks pass and then it dawns on you: The solution to your stagnation does not lie within that very area you’re stuck at.

It lies outside. In another area of expertise called nutrition.

So you use Google and Youtube again, you download an ebook and find out what’s going on in nutrition. It’s the same method you used beforehand to get started with body bulding.

You quickly find out there’s a lot of contradictory stuff out there, so you apply and test in real life and because there’s no alternative, you become an expert yourself. You go really deep, until you gain full clarity.

With this newly developped expertise in nutrition, you break through the plateau in body building without changing anything in that very area.

This tiny, simplified example taken to the extreme is what the progretarian idea is about.

We are stuck in one area of expertise and focus on that very area trying to fix the problem inside the box. Most solutions are found outside the box.

If you advance in your nutritional skills, your initial problems in body building just disappear, because your development in one area influences all other areas.

So if you don’t get promoted at work, perhaps it’s not your Boss, competitive colleagues or a tough economy. Perhaps it’s bad sleeping patterns that drain the energy you’d need to get ahead.

That’s why I fully believe the future belongs to people with multidisciplinary expertise, who benefit from the synergies they created. The narrower a task, the more likely a machine will do it in the next years. The days of performing ONE skill over and over for 45 years and calling that a career are gone.

If you want to thrive in the coming decades, you have to become a multidisciplinary expert, a progretarian.

You have to change the signal-to-noise-ratio.

Become resilient to the noise and at the same time a clearer signal yourself.

Modern mass media, industrialized production of food and goods, TV, Internet, production industry incentives, consumer desires, liberation in lifestyle choices, infrastructure technology & globalization to make use of the planet as if it was a village, digitalization of knowledge…..all that is noise.

Workout regularly, eat healthy, meditate daily and read many many difficult things. Those things help with resilience to that noise.

The synergies of a healthy body-mind-system that’s being exposed to many many different ideas and bodies of knowledge then create a compass that allows you to find ways of gaining expertise in many different topics, which then will turn you into a stronger and clearer signal.

In that body building and nutrition example the relation is obvious. In many other areas people aren’t even aware of any relations.

That’s what the 21st century is about: hacking the signal-to-noise-problem with multidisciplinary expertise.

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The future is about multidisciplinary expertise

The progretarian core

The progretarian idea boils down to 2 core principles:

1. As the world gets more complex and noisy, mastery in one area of life is not enough anymore. You have to advance (progress) in every field of life and benefit from cumulative leverage.

We enter deeper and deeper into information age. Every task that is repetitive will be replaced by machines in the coming decades. ATMs and self-check-out counters are just the beginning. This raises the bar for survival and people with only one area of expertise won’t be able to thrive anymore, because their assets to society have to compete all of a sudden with polished metal. This means the future belongs to the complex, creative thinkers, that have cross-disciplinary expertise and can thereby draw conclusions between fields and close gaps for a greater good. If you’re an entrepreneur, e. g., you have to be good at managing a company, at marketing, at communicating with people, at raising money, you have to understand your product, your market, the possible competition and the legal boundaries. The list goes on. It’s a whole bunch of different flowers (skills) that add up to a bouquet (exponential cumulative leverage effect -> thrive) and only this combination results in you being called an entrepreneur of which the company benefits from. Isolated skills will become more and more useless. Every extraordinarily paid job is a complex bouquet of single flowers.

The President as the officialy highest ranked person in society is the most common example of this. Being President is one skill on the surface level, but many at a closer look. And only being clearly above average in all the laid out single skills, that might vastly differ from each other in what they afford, adds up to that one super surface skill called President.

And while this is obvious for professional skills, the progretarian foundation of this idea is initially in private life. In those regards it’s simply not enough anymore to BE good at math (one passion, one talent, one interest). You have to know some things about food and eat a clean diet, so that you can STAY good at math. You have to develop social skills, communication skills and romantic skills to serve the whole range of human interaction. You have to increase your physical resilience and work out. You have to increase your mental resilience and read and meditate. All those things combined make up a beautiful bouquet.

– The beauty is in the bouquet, not the flower

– Flower = survive / bouquet = thrive

– Alive to survive, dive to thrive

– Dive = progress in all areas of life

I adressed this first core principle in previous posts by asking “How can one become the best self one can be?”

 

2. When personal cumulative leverage of skills and expertise reaches a threshold, progress becomes only sustainable (and desired) by helping other people to progress.

Stephen Covey calls this “private victory before public victory”. Gary Vaynerchuk calls it “legacy is greater than currency”. I adressed this in previous posts by asking “How can we become the strongest versions of ourselves possible, in order to help others become the strongest versions of themselves possible?” There are many expressions of this understanding from way more mature people than me.

The idea is to take the focus of attention away from yourself and onto others, because you understand the context you are in as a human being. Life is enjoyable because there are other people on this ship called Earth.

Monarchies, slavery, war, exploitation, betrayal, crime, drugs are all creations of internally focused minds, that still operate under ME-ME-ME. They accumulate money, status and possessions, so that all those things reflect back to them and the world, who they are, because they actually don’t know and are empty inside. They missed the potential-of-growth-point in midlife where you have to switch your focus. They still think happiness is a new car, a new watch, a nice dinner, another vacation (ME-focus) and not clean water in the 3rd world, teaching your kid how to ride a bike, giving a homeless person a buck, writing a book (YOU-focus). There are only so many steaks you can eat, so many cars to drive, so many women to fuck. It gets shallow. And while you don’t have to stop doing this (maintenance of ME expertise), it can’t stay the sole purpose of your existence anymore to indulge in things for your own enjoyment, gratification and experience of self. There lies far greater enjoyment ahead in helping others. But in order to teach the skills and influence, you have to learn the skills and be influenced first.

– 1st half of life = ME-focus / 2nd half of life = YOU-focus

– Understand the “human context”: We’re a tribe

– Switch of focus in midlife = human evolution on micro (ME) and macro (YOU) level

– If I excel on the fast lane long enough, I open up new fast lanes for others to excel on, which again create more fast lanes for further people and this then exponentially raises global wealth and helps mankind to survive.

 

The progretarian movement can be understood as a romanticization of existing mindsets forced by the modern day environment. The idea of a “studium generale” is not new and was the industry standard for scholars a few centuries ago. I just take that idea and put it into a larger context.

If you highlight all the single facets of those 2 principles, you come up with a whole bunch of consequent principles and conclusions. I will expand on those in the future in far greater detail and most likely a few books.

 

And I’d be grateful and humbled, if you joined the ride!

The progretarian core

When you describe the world, you describe yourself

I recently enjoyed a late summer BBQ on a sunday afternoon. Grassfed beef, self-made chili sauce, baby spinach salads, cabbage and carrot salads….a full buffet of paleo goodness.

There were quite some couples in their late 20s present. The girl across from me frequently expressed to the girl next to her:

“Everyone I know is having a baby right now! It’s crazy, like literally everyone! Well, except me. But to be honest, I don’t even wanna have one right now!”

Expressions like this fascinate me. It doesn’t take much rationality to come to the conclusion that obviously not *everyone* in her social circle is pregnant. A few are. And even admittedly some more. It might raise an eyebrow, but that’s not what’s important. The point is…in her mind *everyone* is pregnant indeed. Her Reticular Activating System, the part in her brain that puts selective attention onto things of value and screens out things of no value, makes her perceive the world like this.

Which objectively tells a lot about her and very little about the world.

Getting closer to 30, without a guy in sight to settle with, becoming more and more aware of The Wall, the priority to replicate increases, mightily incentivized by her genetic programme, and thereby its subjective value and thereby the selective attention focus, that is put onto it. As a result, all she can see is pregnant women, although there were a lot of non-pregnant and non-fertile women as well roaming around those BBQ festivities, which I became aware of after her statement. But to our girl the non-fertiles become invisible gorillas.

The takeaway is this: the girl across from me was convinced she made an accurate observation about the world. But the world is too coincidental and too complex to make a simplified observation like this and have it be true.

As she described the world, she actually described herself.

This is a valuable insight to any progretarian that wants to grow and evolve into his best possible self, in order to give back to the world.

“To get a person’s real opinion, ask what she thinks everyone else believes… If people truly hold a particular belief, they are more likely to think that others agree or have had similar experiences.” — Tyler Cowen

So, to identify the beliefs you hold closest, ask yourself what other people belief. Write them down. Reflect on them and evolve. They are most likely wrong. And the more you haven’t thought about the validity of some of your beliefs, the more likely they need revision.

Do you think, most people believe in God?

Do you think, most people believe big companies exploit the little man?

Do you think, most people believe the government is corrupt?

Do you think, most people believe immigrants are lazy?

Do you think, most people think women don’t enjoy sex and trade it for goods?

Do you think, most people think in order to get rich, you have to take it from others?

Do you think, most people believe watching TV relaxes them?

Do you think, most people believe, that sometimes you have to treat yourself some nice things, no matter how many maxed out credit cards they have?

I’ll invite you to dive into the many facets of the progretarian idea with me over the course of the next years.

It’ll be a helluva ride!

When you describe the world, you describe yourself

The progretarian’s approach to life

When Beethoven was about to turn 30 it became clear that his hearing ability started to detoriate and he had to face the fact that he eventually would become deaf. Taking into account that he was one of the most passionate and dedicated composers that ever walked the face of the earth, this is a shockingly devastating diagnosis. As a result of this he began to compose more manically, to focus more, to ‘produce more’, to be driven more intensely and sharply.

In a sense, we’re all in his shoes. We’re not only about to lose our ability to hear, we’re about to lose our ability to live. The diagnosis was given the second we were born. And still, we’re unconscious about this fact. Completely oblivious to it. Death is a blurry thing far away in the future. Something of no immediate concern right now.

 

And while there are profound reasons for this denial mindset to have evolved and being maintained over the course of our evloution, I am convinced that it’s now about time for a paradigm shift in order for mankind to move on, face acute global challenges and survive.

 

Denial is not enough anymore. In order to become life aware, we have to become death aware. How come, we know the fact of our finite existence and are not powered into action immediately as Beethoven was, when he found out about is finite hearing sense? Why do we waste day in, day out in front of the TV or its successors, the various screens that bring us the internet?

 

Humanity as a whole has come a long way and overcome many obstacles, but taking this as evidence that we will continue to survive is a fatal flaw in thinking. Death is always arounf the corner. It’s not far away and statistics can’t be fooled. The likelihood of you dieing tomorrow is the same as you surviving tomorrow whatever will come your way.

 

And make no mistake about it. There is no heaven and no paradise. There will be no eternal joy in the lap of god. When you’re dead, it’ll be exactly like before you were born. Nothingness, darkness. without consciousness to realize. As Vladimir Nabokov once coined it:



“The cradle rocks above an abyss, and common sense tells us that our existence is but a brief crack of light between two eternities of darkness.”



This realization scares the hell out of me and at the same time fills me with deep gratitude. My dualistic response to this threat is the core building block of all and none in this universe. It’s about polarity. Only darkness makes light worthwhile. Only winter allows you to appreciate summer. And only death makes life enjoyable. Nietzsche contributed a thought experiment that he termed ‘eternal recurrence‘. In it he proposed the idea of living the same life again and again for all eternity and the only time you have a choice of what directions to take, is when you live for the first time. All the lives after that first living are vivid repeats, where you have to live through everything you did and did not do in your first try again. Eternal recurrence would be a horrible sentence, but the lesson is clear:



Make that first try worthwhile enough so that you actually would be at ease with passively living through it again and again, experiencing every victory and every failure again and again.




Everything my mind seems to be circling around are these very questions.

  • How can we make life worthwhile?
  • How can one reach his full potential?
  • How can one squeeze the last drop out of life, so when death comes to take you away he will only find an already dead person that has lived to the fullest. As the wonderful character Zorba the Greek articulated it: “Leave death nothing but a burned out castle.”
Maneuvering through life in our modern world is a narrow road. Modern mass media, the technological infrastructure and consumerism expose us to constant demons that unintentionally hinder us to taste life fully. You either fall into unconsciousness or try to feel life through over-stimulation. It’s either drifting away in front of the TV, 5 hours a day, or it’s constant stimulus via Facebook, Twitter, newsbits, buying stuff, eating stuff, doing stuff. A vast majority of people would love to be born on the finish line. They want it to be easy. They love security and possessions. They would love to live in an idealized care-free utopia without pain and struggle, but that’s not what reality is like. That’s not what a grown-up sees with his own fresh set of eyes. Denial of one part is denial of all parts.



The socially reinforced narrative of internal focus, ‘me me me’, ‘more more more’, ‘take take take’ is only half the picture. The other half, the second part of life, is about an external focus, ‘give give give (back)’. Life only makes sense because of other people. And while this is no higher spiritual truth and I understand that we are born alone and have to die alone, it is still true in a practical sense. If you were the last human on earth, life would initially turn out to be pretty boring and flat. We have to understand ourselves in the context of the whole species. That’s why a part of you has to be dedicated to that species that allowed you to blossom and thrive in the first place. As Stephen R. Covey said:





The whole progretarian mindset is based around this very idea:



How can one become the best self one can be, in order to give back?



There is no one point in life obviously when this begins. It’s a fluent, multidimensional and overlapsing process. That’s why I believe, it’s not enough anymore to be just above average in your professional area of expertise. To be fully content with life, you have to master many personal domains, mainly to have your brain chemistry function properly, so that it enables and propels you to contribute something to the global body of knowledge that helps mankind to survive and thrive.


You have to consciously adress life’s questions, eat the best diet you can, you have to regularly exercise physically to keep your body resilient. You have to become so good, they can’t ignore you. You have to read a broad range of topics a lot, to maintain brain plasticity and be ok with a fluid identity that is not attached to superficial ideas just so that there is something to identify with and fall into unconsciousness. You have to stay open and cultivate a discipline of constant, continual, deliberate development. You have to learn to focus on the long term, the legacy, not the short term, the currency. You have to understand that it’s about many many tiny steps and not one huge step. You have to develop a sense of abundance in every area of life and turn away from mental scarcity, that binds you to certain dogmas and beliefs. The progretarian idea is objective as science itself. It’s ever changing, because the only constant is change. It’s not about quick fixes and magic pills, but about stable, rock-solid foundations built through hard and deep work. It’s about the journey, not the goal. It’s about the action, not the fruits of the action.


It is about full, unrestricted responsibility for everything that is and is not in your life.


It’s about acceptance of the mystery that some questions simply can’t be answered.


We live in transitional times, experiencing the last strokes of the industrial age and moving into information age. Most of the gatekeepers and middlemen economically are dieing alongside the industrial era that created their rise to power.


Death is always a glimpse away. Life is short. How can we make the most of it?



How can we become the strongest versions of ourselves possible in order to then take away the focus from us and onto others, in order to help them become the strongest versions of themselves possible?



This is what the progretarian’s approach to life is about.




Aside

Vital lies

Take stock of those around you and you will …
hear them talk in precise terms about themselves
and their surroundings, which would seem to
point to them having ideas on the matter. But
start to analyse those ideas and you will find that
they hardly reflect in any way the reality to which
they appear to refer, and if you go deeper you
will discover that there is not even an attempt to
adjust the ideas to this reality. Quite the contrary:
through these notions the individual is trying to
cut off any personal vision of reality, of his own
very life. For life is at the start a chaos in which
one is lost. The individual suspects this, but he is
frightened at finding himself face to face with
this terrible reality, and tries to cover it over with
a curtain of fantasy, where everything is clear. It
does not worry him that his “ideas” are not true
he uses them as trenches for the defense of his
existence, as scarecrows to frighten away reality.

—JOSÉ ORTEGA Y GASSET

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