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086: Embracing Uselessness

🤔 How do you restore yourself? 🧠 Embracing Uselessness 🖼 Stress Management (S&B 037) 👉 A checklist to track 2022

Jason Shen
Jason Shen
3 min read
086: Embracing Uselessness
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This is the 86th edition of Cultivating Resilience, a weekly newsletter for innovators looking to build, adapt, and lead in times of change—published by Jason Shen: a resilience coach, product manager, 1st gen immigrant, ex-gymnast, and 3x startup founder.

🤔 How do you restore yourself?

One of the four essential skills of resilience is to restore. To restore is to bring something back to its original state. When disruptive change throws us off, how do you find a way to recenter?

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As per usual, reply back with your answer and I'll share mine with you in return!

🧠 Embracing Uselessness

Dear reader, if you're anything like me, then you're probably proud of how productive, capable, and accomplished you've become. You're always looking for ways to deliver more impact and achiever bigger things.

But are we sometimes lead astray by the siren's song of productivity? Zhuangzi, a philosopher who lived during China's "Warring States" period around 300 BCE, would say so, especially if that pursuit is to our own suffering. As Pauline Lee and Helen De Cruz write in Psyche:

Throughout the book, Zhuangzi suggests in a similar vein that it is good to enjoy yourself. That is, we should not always aim for usefulness. We should not always strive to produce or do things that benefit ourselves or others.

Zhuangzi was against the oppressive need to always follow rules or do something of value. A refreshing thought I must admit. He celebrated gnarly trees that couldn't produce good wood, and disabled bodies that couldn't work in the fields and advocated for letting things simply be. This is how you follow the Dao (the way, the path).

For example, imagine you are happy and doing well as, say, a doctor in a hospital, delighting in your skill and feeling it is in line with the Dao, then it is fine to continue as you are. But if you are miserable, and stressed, and the main reason you are a doctor is for your good salary or even for the good of society, think again. It is OK and in fact desirable to choose a less useful option.

That doesn't mean staying static or only doing one thing for the rest of your life. Instead it means "shifting with the times" and allowing life-changing events to create opportunities to re-evaluate our lives. But most of all, to see ourselves as more than just a tool or object of a greater project. But that your existence is enough and should be valued without further "productivity".

Yeah, I can get behind that. Read more:

How to be useless | Psyche Guides
Follow the Daoist way – reclaim your life and happiness by letting go of the need to produce, strive or serve a purpose

🖼 Stress Management (S&B 037)

Everyone's got their own way!


👉  A checklist to track 2022

Andrew Yeung, a strategist at Meta and friend of this newsletter shared this great list of questions he uses to track lessons and accomplishments throughout the year. So next performance review you'll be ready (but also do it for yourself!)


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Thank you for being a member of Cultivating Resilience. This newsletter has spread almost exclusively by word of mouth. Would you help share it with a friend or two who might also enjoy it?

More Resources and Fun Stuff

  • Book Notes: Summaries / quotes from great books I've read
  • Scotch & Bean: a webcomic about work, friendship, and wellness
  • Birthday Lessons: Ideas, questions, and principles I've picked up over the years
  • Career Spotlight: A deep dive into my journey as an athlete, PM, founder, and creator.
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Jason Shen

Human(e) technologist on a mission to help build resilient teams and organizations. Former NCAA gymnast and three-time startup founder.