Pattern recognition

This is what I’ve come up with so far.

1. Consistency will get you the farthest.
2. Your subconscious is better at detecting inconsistencies than you are.

And therefore,

3. Operating by instinct is generally a pretty good plan.


2009 was difficult. Depression on the whole is un-fun, and while year six of it didn’t feel particularly different from year one (in the sense that feeling is a departure from baseline), the amount of time and energy I put into work and classes had finally killed off my stamina.

Which was only a problem insofar as it was not sustainable. In the years leading to that point, I had made the best decisions I could with the information I had: given an interest and existing background in web stuffs, I chose a school and a degree program and a series of jobs to get me further down that road. When I ran out of interest, I stayed the course because it made sense. Momentum. And when that ran out, in the absence of interest and energy both, the only thing left was to curl up in a safe place, and sleep.

(This is why my education summary starts at a tech university in Chicago and summarily ends at a small liberal arts school in Wisconsin. The principle feature of the small liberal arts school in Wisconsin was my best friend from high school. I could trust him, and rest.)

When I came to, it was with a very clear sense that people are what I needed to be about (inverse Stockholm). I had no interest in career for its own sake, and every interest in continuing to make the kind of connections that had brought me back — in creating generally, and in humanity genuinely — and following them wherever they go. Which, bonus wordplay aside, really just means finding honest connections with people, and seeing what we can make together.

And that’s it.


My declarative memory has always been terrible. Birthdays and names and valence counts — totally unreliable.

Patterns, on the other hand, are my jam. Derive the pattern, and suddenly everything’s deterministic.Internalize the pattern, and your next move becomes automatic — the next note played, the next word spoken, the next step taken. Facts are committed to memory, patterns are committed to instinct.

This suggests the potential for forming active instincts, which isn’t anything new. Personal trainers and AA sponsors alike are all about owning your behavioral automata.

What’s equally interesting to me are the passive instincts — a musician hears when a note is out of place, and knows where it should be; a designer sees and cares about that extraneous pixel. In a similar vein, everyone has social instincts that tell them when something isn’t quite right, and where things should be. There’s an uncanny valley for interpersonal interactions, and instinct can steer us through it; I hold that this can be the case for nearly every area and scale of substance.


1. Consistency will get you the farthest.

The strongest and truest connections happen between people who are, to each other, wholly and earnestly themselves. This could be an encounter in a moment, or a friendship over years. In the space of that connection, they are only and honestly the patterns that define them.

That’s one application.

The other one I care about is the complement of the long-term career plan. Whether it’s 10,000 hours or not, any desired outcome to a pattern will require time.

I posit that the desired outcome is optional. Choose a pattern that you are comfortable with now. Follow it, consistently and for the long run. You have no idea where it will lead, and choosing a specific outcome now, when you know the least about where you’re going, is not required.

“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.” — Douglas Adams

2. Your subconscious is better at detecting inconsistencies than you are.

I think of this generally as aestheticism. (Tracing the noumenal?)

We all come pre-packaged with survival-oriented preferences (warmth over cold, sweet over bitter) and we can tell when something is awry. As we layer in patterns that aren’t defaults, developing preferences that are more abstract, the adventure-choosing becomes more nuanced, and the notion of right is less cognitively straightforward. It becomes a matter of taste.

(Much of art hinges on this. I have a friend who spent days in an architecture class adjusting the visual weights and contrasts of an abstract print. There was no conscious formula; she was looking for the right balance.)

3. Operating by instinct is generally a pretty good plan.

My dad calls this “sticking to the plan”. I call this “wiring up your instincts to reflect what you want to be about, then relying on them fully”.

I’ve been running this as an experiment since returning to Chicago in 2012.

I will keep you posted.