How little is too little overhead?
A lot of my recent life decisions have been influenced by an incredible observation by Austin Kleon:
Low overhead + “do what you love” = a good life.
“I deserve nice things” + “do what you love” = a time bomb.
This isn’t about [shudder] minimalism. But recognising that unless you’re Beyoncé you can’t do it all. And even then, is your support team doing it all?
There is an incredible amount of satisfaction in working out what it is you want and stripping away the excess. But it can go too far.
I was reminded of this while reading a biography of Paul Erdos, called The Man Who Loved Only Numbers. A man who took it too far:
Erdos structured his life to maximize the amount of time he had for mathematics. He had no wife or children, no job, no hobbies, not even a home, to tie him down. He lived out of a shabby suitcase and a drab orange plastic bag from Centrum Aruhaz (” Central Warehouse” ), a large department store in Budapest. In a never-ending search for good mathematical problems and fresh mathematical talent, Erdos crisscrossed four continents at a frenzied pace, moving from one university or research center to the next. His modus operandi was to show up on the doorstep of a fellow mathematician, declare, ” my brain is open,” work with his host for a day or two, until he was bored or his host was run down, and then move on to another home…
…if it wasn’t mathematics, Erdos wouldn’t be bothered. ” Some French socialist said that private property was theft,” Erdos recalled. ” I say that private property is a nuisance.”
This isn’t stripping away the extraneous in order to do what you love. It’s outsourcing the job of being a human.