"The ultimate test for the ability to control the quality of experience is what a person does in solitude, with no external demands to give structure to attention. It is relatively easy to become involved with a job, to enjoy the company of friends, to be entertained in a theater or at a concert. But what happens when we are left to our own devices? Alone, when the dark night of the soul descends, are we forced into frantic attempts to distract the mind from its coming? Or are we able to take on activities that are not only enjoyable, but make the self grow?"
We need to rethink social interactions to focus on beneficial self/group growth, and not only the material/economical side.
Flow led me down the rabbit hole to philosophical Daoism. It is astonishing how closely intertwined philosophy and psychology turn out to be.
It’d be surprising if they weren’t, if you think about it. :)
My coffee stops are usually Addicted2Caffeine on Bartok Bela, and Tamp & Pull, depending on which hotel I'm staying at.
There's also Barako Kavehaz, which serves an interesting Filipino coffee varietal called Liberica Barako.
Karl Popper used to go hunting in the summers through the Carpatian Mountains with my grandfather; occasionally they were joined by August von Hayek, who later also got a Nobel in Economics . . . I learned a lot about my grandfather from him . . . And indirectly a lot from Popper, whose Das Logik Der Vorschung (translated into English with the strange title of The Logic of Scientific Discovery) was for years my Bible.
I'd first heard of his Flow concept on a public radio interview I caught whilst on a road-trip through a remote rural high plateau, in the 1990s. Highly memorable and mildly surreal listening to his voice as the countryside flowed past.
A more complete obituary was also submitted as his death was announced though marked a dupe on HN.
"Mihály Csíkszentmihályi- Flow Theory Architect, Hungarian-American Psychologist, Dies Aged 88"
(HN submission: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=28948395)
Why would it be of interest for the audience of hackernews? Well, programmers and related fields' mostly creative workers tend to experience the flow, and even though it is hard to explain (or describe, for that matter) most of us agree that it's great to be in.
I highly recommend reading his book “Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience”.
Rest in peace sir.
Having to explain that almost instinctive process to a complete stranger who has control over your career and income can really hamper or destroy the ability to get into that groove. I've found it really useful to know about flow, what can get it going and when it's just not happening, and most interviews just aren't set up to encourage it. Csikszentmihalyi wrote a shorter book called "Finding Flow" which speaks of creating situations that bring out the best in others and us.
But it's an interesting aspect anyway, if a candidate ever experienced / aware of flow
> One of the most common descriptions of optimal experience is that time no longer seems to pass the way it ordinarily does. The objective, external duration we measure with reference to outside events like night and day, or the orderly progression of clocks, is rendered irrelevant by the rhythms dictated by the activity. Often hours seem to pass by in minutes; in general, most people report that time seems to pass much faster. But occasionally the reverse occurs: Ballet dancers describe how a difficult turn that takes less than a second in real time stretches out for what seems like minutes: "Two things happen. One is that it seems to pass really fast in one sense. After it’s passed, it seems to have passed really fast. I see that it’s 1:00 in the morning, and I say: 'Aha, just a few minutes ago it was 8:00.' But then while I’m dancing... it seems like it’s been much longer than maybe it really was." The safest generalization to make about this phenomenon is to say that during the flow experience the sense of time bears little relation to the passage of time as measured by the absolute convention of the clock.
Daniel Kahneman, "Thinking, Fast and Slow"
Susan Cain, "Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking"
Daniel Pink, "Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us"
So, maybe not entirely unrelated, but I certainly wasn't looking for a specific theme. Just working down my non-fiction list.
However, my early 30s were still marked with a heavy insecurity, ennui, lack of direction, failure to focus and achieve in the workplace, and failed romantic endeavors.
I began with work on boundaries and understanding self by Henry Cloud, ways to achieve like Find Your Strengths, and even business related work like Good to Great.
Flow was an excellent part of this collection, as it helped me turn work into something more enjoyable and progressive. Drive was very neat, and I really enjoyed Your Brain at Work.
I also have a personal interest in education, so I read a lot on that, including by Sir Ken Robinson. And I read Power of Habit.
Overall I think the things I learned improved my habits at home and at work, grounded me, improved my confidence, and made me a better resource for others. (Of course I must not assume I always have the answer or am absolutely right just because I read things in a book.) In general when I have deep conversations, I seem to be able to follow along and better understand how people work and how relationships work.
I'm very happy with my job, feeling very productive, significant and learning new skills (in my 40s). I've been married 6 years and have a very high satisfaction with our marriage. There's still a struggle with getting everything done I want, like gathering firewood for the winter, but largely I feel that I rise to meet my responsibilities.
Now I can't say how much came from dedicating time and effort into learning, and how much comes naturally from experience and age. But I certainly don't regret any of that self-education today.
Simply: reading is communication over time. It enables earlier others to share their thoughts and insights. Often, as suggested in this thread, ideas arising in one domain have relevance in others --- they provide insights, clarity, metaphors, understanding, mechanisms, skills, ...
Why do you read Hacker News?
As for the question if these books add value - they certainly provide entertainment for the reader, but they may also warp his view of the world (if the reader is not careful, they may become convinced that the book's thesis is true even if the evidence/ancedotes laid out are hardly conclusive).
Also, majority of non-fiction textbook are about psychology, economy, sociology, history etc. which are vastly more intractable than biology and physics.
I often forget, but it was this book that helped me decide to become a programmer. I flip-flopped a lot between college majors and just generally what the hell it was i wanted to do for a living. The professor who ran that course asked me what job would easily create (and sustain) flow states for me. For me, it was programming that did the trick. Not even art, which i did for 12 hours a day at the time, worked quite as well.
At one point, the only activity of being sit is the one necessary to reach the flow state.
Mentions on HN: https://hacker-recommended-books.vercel.app/category/0/all-t...
Never knew of this man, but getting into the “flow state” more often has become one of my core objectives in life. Sad to hear of his passing.
One of the lesser known Hungarians (even Hungarians don't really know of him), but definitely remarkable life and research.
- M: /m/
- i: /i/ approximately as in big
- h: /h/ as in “hi”
- á: /aː/ as in “father”
- ly: /j/ as in “yes”
- Cs: /tʃ/ as in “cheek”
- í: /iː/ as in “cheek”
- k: /k/ as in “cheek”
- sz: /s/ as in “scent” or “saint” (which means “szent” in Hungarian)
- e: /e/ as in “scent”
- n: /n/ as in “scent”
- t: /t/ as in “scent”
- mihály: as his first name
- i: /i/
Overall: /ˈmihaɪ ˈtʃiːksɛntmiˌhɑːji/ ≈ mihaay cheek-scent-mihaayi
I am Danish, and have yet to hear anybody not a Dane pronounce Søren Kierkegaard correct. I wouldn't have a clue how to rewrite the name so that it becomes more clear.
To me it seems that names are supposed to be broken up into their syllables, but I could be very wrong:
Essentially the same as:
The audio said, "His last name is pronounced Chick-SENT-me-high-ee. We call him Mike!"
As a musician his work has been immensely important.
Explanation for language nerds: Mihály is the Hungarian version of "Michael", Csíkszentmihály is a Hungarian village in Romania with a name derived from St. Michael (https://ro.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mih%C4%83ileni,_Harghita), and the "i" at the end denotes a toponymic surname (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toponymic_surname).