Cultivation without discipline is solicitation
Sam Altman recently started a thread on cultivating toughness (or more accurately ‘resilience’ or willfulness’).
Of course, there is a difference between being resilient and being seen as resilient. If you make toughness or resiliency the goal, and decide on cultivation as the process, you encourage people to solicit feedback and approval on their progress rather than teaching them to calibrate on their own (the ability to recalibrate is a good definition of toughness, resilience, grit, etc.)
Dr. Gena Gorlin writes that ambitious builders “generally seem more interested in learning and building than in proving themselves.” I think they learn and build to prove themselves to…themselves. A surefire way to bet on a belief is to put it into action with skin in the game — this seems to be what productive builders do constantly.
But what they are not interested in is what Jean Baudrillard in The Consumer Society called ‘soliciting approval’ — that is, seeking out confirmation or proof — they would rather create that confirmation or proof themselves.
Self-trust, Gorlin says, “refers specifically to the internalized conviction that your judgment is credible-not because it’s always right, but because you’re always (or nearly always) genuinely striving to get it right.”
It’s not the same as self-worth or self-confidence. It’s explicitly anti-solicitation. You only solicit approval from yourself, because that’s the only person whose judgement you can fully critique.
When we hear cultivation, we picture the growth just around the corner. But cultivation is not a shortcut for ‘growth’.
Think of it as ‘smeared out intervention’. As Kevin Simler puts it, “Faced with the necessity but also the dangers of growth, the seasoned engineer seeks a balance between nurture and discipline.” (emphasis mine)
Tunnel vision for growth erodes discipline. The startup releases an unrefined product that is not portable enough to saturate the market at scale. The person on a ‘growth journey’ stops honing their self trust and accumulates feedback for the sake of it. Economists lapse in the discipline required to separate correlation and causation between GDP growth and higher living standards.
What problems arise from cultivation without discipline? If you’re pursuing personal progress, you solicit approval that your cultivation is producing growth. This could go badly if you were cultivating for toughness — how much conflict is caused by trying to prove toughness to other people?
Resiliency and willfulness are not immune either. As is the case with anything we solicit approval of, we get confirmation bias. We will either seek out feedback from others that confirms we are resilient or willful enough, or we will modify how we solicit feedback in order to get the desired result.
Originally published at https://mattaurilio.com on February 20, 2022.