Every man is the sum total of his reactions to experience. As your experiences differ and multiply, you become a different man, and hence your perspective changes.
So it would seem foolish, would it not, to adjust our lives to the demands of a goal we see from a different angle every day?
...to put our faith in tangible goals would seem to be, at best, unwise. So we do not strive to be firemen, we do not strive to be bankers, nor policemen, nor doctors. WE STRIVE TO BE OURSELVES.
I don't mean that we can't BE firemen, bankers, or doctors—but that we must make the goal conform to the individual, rather than make the individual conform to the goal.
...beware of looking for goals: look for a way of life. Decide how you want to live and then see what you can do to make a living WITHIN that way of life.
In doing this... he avoids frustrating his potential (choosing a path which puts no limit on his self-development), and he avoids the terror of seeing his goal wilt or lose its charm as he draws closer to it
Summary: rather than fixating on specific goals, find a way of life that maximizes your potential for self-development and lets you be your most authentic self.
There could be some interesting ideas in there too, but that is not the main meat of literature.
I think its important for the sake of intellectual rigour not to confuse the two.
I'd say expression coupled with insight and excellent taste is the sweet spot for the really good stuff. Putting together a great novel, say, is a lot more than knowing how to make yer words purty and fancy. It's also more than just telling a well-structured story. It's more than lifelike characters. It's more than prompting sharp and lasting emotions on the reader. It's more than atmosphere. Than having the confidence to let an amazing, beautiful idea slip by like a passing stranger's hint of perfume in a crowd. More than honesty. And so on. It's all of those things, continuously, for a few hundred pages.
[EDIT] though I'm not defending this letter as any kind of top-notch literature (is it supposed to be?). The parts I've read so far seem obviously too thin to qualify.
Yes. It's fashionable right now to be florid, but writers like Hemingway can punch you in the gut using simple, declarative sentences:
"This book contains material from the remises of my memory and of my heart. Even if the one has been tampered with and the other does not exist."
> For sale: baby shoes, never worn.
Really struck me in the feels. Rest In Peace.
I feel like he had the inklings of some good ideas in there, but none of them fleshed out. As all ideas about life are when you're 20 :)
The people to look up to, are those you relate to, who are past 50. Who've raised children, who know how to communicate to younger people AND have a wealth of life experience and hopefully wisdom.
No 20 year old has ever given me solid life advice - you just haven't lived long enough.
He wasn't famous when he wrote it, and one person did presumably read it - his friend, who asked for it.
I don't know what his friend did, but Thompson seems to have taken his own advice and succeeded. He lived a life that fit who he was, rather than being a person who fit the life that he fell into.
Like many people, I'm the second type: my life has revolved around the job I'm in, and changes to my life involved finding the next job like the current one; SCDC (Same Cubicle, Different Company). There's been no particular period of discovery, of not knowing what I'd be doing a year from now.
And because of that, I've always felt like I was missing something. I wonder if I ever met myself in passing, the real me.
This idea that everyone over the age of 40, 50, or 60 somehow magically becomes wise is completely ridiculous. Of course I am not saying that they aren't a lot of wise older people who've really experienced and learned things - of course there are. But wise perceptive people of any age are the exception - not the norm.
Which I've heard variations of from teenagers, let alone 20 year olds.
Tho none with Hunters gift for verbiage
That means he had good upbringing or just good life intuition to recognize that to be a good idea.
Wisdom is knowing in your bones, that something's true. Thompson's merely trying to convey what others have conveyed to him, coupled with some intuition.
Which's my entire point - don't bother listening to people regurgitating something they read in a book, go find folks who've lived it. They tend to be older :)
Age per se doesn't always reflect experience - and 20 years is a long time still if you take the time to experience something - master an instrument, doing drugs, thinking about shit.
Today most of the people extend their teens as far as they can - with partying and stuff before they actually take responsibility for their life.
In the time of my grandfather he started working at the age of 12, grinding hard at 14 until he mastered bakery craft at 16. My other grandfather started working since he could remember, in the farm.
I'm not saying that work means experience - I'm talking about perspective : at that time hunger and famine were the status quo, if they didn't work they would die.
I do agree that you are more likely to get better life advice from those with a wealth of experience, but youth is hardly a reason to discredit anyone's words.
Actual sources on the bottom of the article, including nature.com
To drive this point home - a week-old baby has no knowledge or wisdom to offer me.
I may derive insight from being around a week-old baby, and that insight is because I am of age, and have accumulated wisdom and knowledge, not because of the baby.
It could just be that realizing people have no clue until they're at leaaaast 25, more realistically at least 30, more realistically most people never get a clue, is part of the wisdom that I've acquired, and am trying to convey here, for the 20-somethings to ponder.
I'm not writing this to toot my own horn - I was completely clueless at 20. I was so clueless I'd argue with people twice my age on the internet and get defensive when I'd get asked my age :)
But the letter title was interesting to me: in Silicon Valley where I work, there are engineers who enjoy doing things and engineers that seem to have some big plan to become famous and rich. The former are a lot happier and usually more successful over the years.
I'm wondering about this because I've heard this exact same series of ideas in different forms from several people in their old or advanced middle age, most of whom actually had an outdated understanding of the world as they had seemingly stopped paying attention to its evolution and set out to experience new things once they had settled down with a family. Not that I can blame them, of course.
Since there is so much to learn about the world and so many lives that are utterly different from one another that I wonder if it's even possible to ever "get a clue" or if it's just a comforting illusion. Of course, I'm sure there are general useful patterns and rules of thumb that can make it easier, like the ones outlined in the letter to Hume.
There is one anecdote which I think can illustrate this point quite well. I came across a book by Martin Gardner that detailed his wisdom about the world that he had accumulated during his life. One of the reviews caught my eye however, with the following statement:
"Suppose I tell you no more than the following: Martin Gardner lived in the U.S. in the 20th century. Once you've read that statement, there is absolutely nothing in this book that will surprise you."
And they were right. The guy had essentially absorbed the ideas of his environment like a sponge. He saw them as insights wise enough to regurgitate them over the course of an entire book. This was not an average man but a person who had grappled with difficult abstract thought his entire life and made a career out of it, and yet his wisdom was still in canned form.
There are some universals that one gets to understand as he/she gets older - one of them is how clueless one is at the young and tender age of 20. There is just no way around it and it's not a bad thing at all.
It's just true.
The reason it may not seem true - is that a lot of people, and I mean most, tend to carry shame and insecurity, which prevents them from growing emotionally, well into their 30s, 40s and even to their grave. As a result, it may feel like 'I'm not clueless at 20-something, I know better than a lot of the 30 and 40-somethings I meet!'.
To which I'd reply - you're right! They're ALSO clueless! Like you! :)
It's not a competition. It most definitely is possible to get a clue - and the clues will be different for everyone. The way to close up and remain clueless is pretty generic - remain defensive, follow the established rules, don't question too much.
The way to get clues is fairly unique, because you have to follow your heart and your gut, see how it plays out and adjust, a lot. That'll be unique to you, but not so unique that you can't find some helpful ideas along the way from people who've gone down a similar route and that you admire.
If you admire what a 20-something has done more than what some of the older folks have accomplished, it may be a sign that you need to look into what you want to get out of life, that takes more than a decade or two to accomplish. Dream bigger :)
..."i apologize for the length of this letter; if i'd had more time, it would have been shorter"
I don't think you can learn from positive examples exclusively. To solve a nonogram, you need to mark squares that are black and those that ARE NOT black for sure. Another example, survivorship bias. In WW2 the British were sending bombers to Berlin and other German cities. Engineers were tasked with putting more armor plating on bombers. They examined where round (bullet) holes clustered on the returning bombers, and added extra armor in the biggest clusters. Fewest holes were found around the fuel tank and pilot's cabin, and those got no extra protection. It was a perfectly rational decision they made based on available data. But they could learn a lot from losers.
Being wise, or intelligent, is not following some great personas. It's forming insight based on your observations. Hunter S. Thompson's advice may be sound, but it would be equally sound if he was a garbage collector. That you must get such advice from him, suggests, sadly, that you can't recognize it when you see it. (I'm not saying I'm better)
Is this something very [whatever place you’re from] to make condescending sarcastic comments whenever people from other places find something interesting or meaningful to them, and want to share and discuss it?
The closest real, substantiated event is a paper published by Abraham Wald, an Austro-Hungarian who immigrated to the USA, in which he applies the correct statistical analysis accounting for survivorship bias. I can find no evidence that anyone ever published the "opposite" conclusion, or added any armor to real planes either way.
The story is also attributed, without evidence, to Patrick Blackett, who was indeed British.