The middle path is the way to wisdom. – Mevlana Rumi
Every once in a while something comes along that makes you realise you really didn’t understand something you thought you did.
Like Jordan Ellenberg’s book How not to be wrong: The hidden maths of everyday life – which makes you look again at things that happen every day.
On LinkedIn, for example, you’ve probably had at least one message from someone talking about “crushing it”.
Get up earlier, work harder, stay longer and you’ll get ahead.
That’s an example of linear thinking – if you do more of something you’ll get a bigger return.
We see this everywhere – mostly among novices, it must be said.
It’s good to post regularly on social media, says someone who got famous by posting regularly.
That must mean it’s good to post every day, better to post a few times a day, even better to post every hour or maybe even every few minutes.
But what actually happens if you have the misfortune to be connected to someone filling up your media stream with their programmed patter?
If you’re like me, after a while you turn off the tap.
There’s a middle way between extremes for most things.
Too little posting and as far as the world is concerned, you don’t exist.
Too much and it tunes you out.
What happens is that there is a sweet spot – a level of activity from which if you change and do less, or do more, the outcome is worse either way.
And once you get this, you’ll see it everywhere.
The answer to productivity is not working harder but working better for the optimum amount of time.
The answer to crowded roads is not to ban transport – because all you’ll then get is crowded housing and crowded walkways.
Solutions that tend to extremes don’t work.
Take being frugal, for example.
If everyone saves everything they make then you end up with no economy and no vitality.
If everyone spends everything they make you get goods being produced and consumed but a population with nothing in the bank to pay for old age or a tough time.
A diet that is too restrictive isn’t going to work in the long term – but neither is giving up and having chocolate every day.
The thing is we know balance is important but the imagined link between activity and result is very seductive.
So we have companies rushing for growth at any cost, governments racing to weaponise or industrialise, and people pushing themselves and their families harder and harder.
And that’s ok – if you’re on the left side of the curve.
The challenge is being able to recognise where you are.
And one approach to that is to, as pilots do, read from the ground to the map.
Don’t live according to someone else’s expectations of where you should be right now.
If you follow a map of expectations, you could easily get lost.
Instead, look at your life and how it’s working and make your own decision about whether you need to do more or, as importantly, do less.