Ancient culture was marked by embracing friction—modern culture is marked by avo... | by Sahil Bloom

Sahil Bloom


3 months ago

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Ancient culture was marked by embracing friction—modern culture is marked by avoiding it. But in our obsessive quest to live in a frictionless world, will we eventually come to realize that friction was what created meaning?

Stoic writing is filled with quotes on the importance of friction: “Constant misfortune brings this one blessing: to whom it always assails, it eventually fortifies.” - Seneca “The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.” - Marcus Aurelius

Many philosophers have commented on the importance of friction, struggle, and adversity to creating "texture" in our lives. This texture heightens our awareness of individual moments. Smooth moments pass by with ease and are forgotten. Textured moments are remembered.

But in the modern era, society has grown obsessed with the removal of all friction from our daily lives. • Frictionless commerce • Frictionless communication • Frictionless work These movements gain momentum because humans like them—we like avoiding friction.

A frictionless life is an "easy" life: We never have to leave our house or interact in order to shop. We never have to suffer the awkwardness of cold approaching a potential partner at a bar. We never have to commute or interact with co-workers in person. But at what cost?

In reducing friction, are we reducing our humanity? @oliverburkeman addresses this in his book 4,000 Weeks (which I just started and is fantastic): "the inconvenience involved, which might look like brokenness from the outside, in fact embodies something essentially human."

In our journey to optimize for ease with every tiny experience, are we winning the battle, but losing the war? This post from the r/fatFIRE subreddit (shared by @sairarahman) is a perfect example of the perils of ease optimization.

Our "friction muscle" is steadily atrophying in this frictionless world. We rarely face the struggles that created friction in our lives, so we're losing our ability to outlast them. When we inevitably encounter them, we break. The smallest inconveniences annoy us to all hell.

Think about a time when a frictionless experience felt anything but: • The 2 day Prime delivery failed to show up on time. • The store's Apple Pay was broken and you had to take out your wallet. • Your boss actually asked you to come into the office. How did you feel?

Be honest. I'll go first: I felt annoyed. Probably cursed under my breath at my misfortune or the ineptitude of the technology I was encountering. Step back and think about how absurd this really is. Are we losing our ability to deal with any level of friction in our lives?

My Prediction: In a world of steadily decreasing friction, it will be those who are willing to embrace friction that will thrive. Friction is an essential fabric of life. Avoid it at your own peril. • Easy now—hard later. • Hard now—easy later. The choice is with all of us.

This is a topic I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. Follow me @SahilBloom for more writing on personal growth, life, and comprehensive wealth. I’ll write a deep dive on friction in my newsletter. Join 117,000+ others who will receive it.

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