I Promise this isn’t a Humblebrag
I’m really bad at being Useless. That’s probably a good thing, but not always. This tendency definitely helped me become a Managing Director. I always have something at my fingertips that is useful. I have Kindle book and podcast episode for every possible mood I could ever be in. When I forget a magazine on the potty, I read the labels on the cleaning supplies. There must be something I can learn here. When I force myself to take a walk without my iPhone, I go through my notebook, find few unanswered questions, and commit to answering them on my stroll.
Yet my wife wishes I could be more Useless. I doubt she wants me to become a pot-smoking invalid — so what does she mean? Let’s go Munger-style and invert the situation. If I can’t be Useless, then every activity must be Useful. Reading The Giving Tree turns into cognitive development exercise for my toddler. Hobbies are evaluated on the basis of improvement, or even worse, vanity metrics. Our marriage becomes outcome-oriented (though I can’t define what that outcome is).
Newborns test your ability to be Useless. I’m not doing too well. (I listened to a talk on Rationality at 4 am while I administered a bottle.) I struggle to stare into my little one’s eyes and appreciate her for being the adorable blob that she is.
Why is it so hard? A few years ago, I would’ve said that it’s fear-based. Now though, it’s more ego-driven. I want to know that I matter. And being Useful helps reassure me that when it’s all said and done, I’ll matter.
But to who?
Want to hear more? I wrestle with these issues with my coach, Jerry Colonna (Reboot Podcast), and Patrick O’Shaughnessy (Invest Like the Best).