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Problems

Text: Bas Vink Visuals: Emma Roodbergen

Dissatisfaction. It’s an innate part of our psychology. No amount of success, love, fame or money will get you to a point where you are like: cool, I’m done. I got it. That train will keep on rolling. The subtle art of not giving a fack is a book about problems. As an Engineer, I love problems. They are like what candy is, to a five year old. Problems nowadays, have a bad reputation in generation snowflake. I think you’re always going to have problems, that is life. Deal with it! What is life of a delusional place without problems? What you can choose however, is that the problems you will have. Life is an uphill battle. People need struggle to have meaning. Then you might as well choose meaningful problems. This article takes material from the The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A Fack, Omdenken (newest book) and 12 Rules For Life and applies it to the life of an Industrial Design Student. It is a cold and dry article. And if you can read it from start to finish and understand the message, then you will get through your studies. I promise you.

The problem of problems never goes away. Knowing this can help you calibrate your life properly. You might be thinking: “Well, if I just got everything together, I hit that stable platform and life will be good.” Not gonna happen baby. I have met these delusional people, they live in a dream that is turning into a nightmare. But the dreamer refuses to accept it is a nightmare and won’t wake up because this is ‘the dream’. That is never going to happen. This is a Sisyphus issue. You know, the guy that pushes up the rock up the mountain and it rolls back down. He is probably happy battling his problem until infinity. Nietzsche said something like: we must presume Sisyphus to be happy. Maybe you like rolling a rock up a hill. What alternative is there? Just sit by the rock? It’s OK to be active, even if your problem might not be fundamentally solvable. But that does not mean it is not worth trying to solve! Although people can despair about it. Not so surprisingly. I’ll spare you an example. The problem a lot of us have with problems is that the desired outcome mismatches the predicted outcome. Sometimes you get an undesirable outcome. It is important to get the difference. Because if you think about expectation, it is just a cold cognitive and rational model. I know the world, I understand its relationships. I can predict what is going to happen next. But you are not trying to predict it as a designer. You are trying to get what you want. You want to make an awesome design. You have motivation behind that. You can’t throw that out of the equation. As soon as you throw motivation out of the equation then you are stuck with the mystery of perception. How do you organize your perception unless you want something? You can’t. It’s a tool. You are a creature that has an aim. That is why teachers ask you at the beginning of a project what your goals and expectations are, so you are aiming sharper.

Finally, forget predicted and unpredicted outcome. Think desired and undesired outcome. Let’s say you are in this project. You have this low level desire to pass it with the least amount of effort necessary. A coach who grades you is in the way and she is mildly annoying because she asks critical questions. She is the obstacle. So there is something undesired there. BTW, It’s just an example, I love my coach. The desired outcome produces positive emotions. You have hope that you will make it. That indicates the potential attainment of the goal. So when I see a clear path towards reaching my goal, then I know that I can sufficiently get there. That will give me enough positive emotion to move forward. You can actually use this when you think about room design. You design your squad space to attain your goal. You hang up sketches, you clean it after prototyping and you organize your tools. In this way the pathway to your goal is as straight as possible. That is why your parents told you to clean up your room. It is the same circuitry that responds to chaos in a messy room. It makes you uncomfortable, its messy, you cant see the forest through the trees. But that’s another coock. So, aiming towards something produces hope/pleasure. It biologically rewards you. And the violation of an expectation produces anxiety. What I am trying to say is: unpredicted outcome makes the irrelevant relevant, and it produces an undifferentiated emotional state. Welcome in Limbo. To reach heaven, you have to set goals, solve problems, and get through hell.