Rules of Daydreaming


Not too long ago I read Michael Lewis’ wonderful and spectacular book ‘The Undoing Project’ which details the story of a pair of famed psychologists who revolutionised economics to the point of earning a Noble Prize for their efforts. Since having put the book down I have wanted to write something about either the pairing of Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky or of Lewis’ masterful understanding of pairing subject matter and entertainment or simply to have highlighted one of the pairs many great accomplishments. Yet I’ve never quite been able to come up with anything worthy enough to compliment my experience learning about these unique and inspiring individuals. Though of all the things I learnt a single ideology expressed by Kahneman has stuck with me long after and has niggled away at me relentlessly.

Having completed last weeks piece it fell into place, that niggle became an idea, one that serves as a perfect companion to last week’s post. A quick bit of shameless promotion first though, you can find a link to my previous post, 368. The Neistat Way either in the menu to the right or at the bottom of this page. To give even quicker context I was discussing the importance of dreaming and doing and working hard towards a goal. Now what may follow may seem counter to this but please bear with.

In ‘The Undoing Project’ Kahneman is cited with saying and please note the following is heavily paraphrased from memory so please pardon the un-verbatim nature but the sentiment remains, “I don’t allow myself to daydream”. This statement was expanded upon explaining how he only allowed himself to dream of the absolute impossible and never what he perceived as possible. For instance he wouldn’t allow himself to daydream of becoming a scholar or a millionaire or of collecting a Noble prize because all are logically and technically achievable. They are just as achievable as becoming an astronaut, a cowboy or a a racing car driver. They may seem impossible but in reality they just require time, effort and dedication. Kahneman’s point being why waste time daydreaming about such things when you could be doing them or at the very least working towards them.

For me a large portion of my day is naturally taken up by dreaming up new, exotic and crazy worlds. Creating real, interesting and zany characters to then populate them as I continue with my various attempts to infiltrate the world of comic book and screen writing. I don’t feel as if Kahneman is knocking this type of daydreaming because in effect it is doing. However more often these days I find myself dreaming of book deals, of seeing my work in print, of attending premieres, of giving talks etc. etc. I even find myself daydreaming of the simple and actual act of writing. This is where Kahnemans words come into play, why they’ve sat niggling away at me with such resolution. Yeah it’s undeniably fun to picture things and its good to dream but I feel as if I’m building expectations for things well within my grasp. By dreaming of them I am making them an impossible rather than a very achievable possibility. Why do I waste time thinking about writing, designing, of learning something or of achieving something then rather going out there and pursuing them, relentlessly. No moment of time is insignificant no matter how trivial it may seem, it is all time to be spent doing, to be spent improving rather then staring into the obliqueness of space dreaming of the possible.

Time is our greatest, most irreplaceable and most often wasted commodity. What I take from Kahneman’s words isn’t to not dream but not to waste time thinking and daydreaming when you could be doing. We all have one or two dreams that stuck with us or just struck us one day and no matter how impossible they may seem they are all possible. They likely just require a lot of work, time and effort, yes they may cause a little disappointment or heartache in the pursuit of them but that is all just part of life. Any dream is achievable and doable with hard work and effort. This is why I’ve adopted Kahneman’s ‘rule’ of daydreaming, why waste time daydreaming of all the possibles. Chase them instead.


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