Finding New Rabbit Holes

January 22, 2008 — 8 Comments

Last month, I started editing Wikipedia articles. I don’t know why. Certainly it wasn’t because I had a surplus of free time. I just recently had to start waking up two hours earlier so I could taste daylight again. But I’ve been finding cracks of time that I could jam this into.

There is a hunger there that I don’t really understand. I don’t feel right if I don’t run. Two books a week or I’m stagnating. Nothing is better than mulling some big, macro idea over–picking at it until it crumbles into understanding. Then translating it, explaining it and applying it. I’ve been doing that with Wikipedia pages, connecting articles and creating news ones based on my research. It’s awesome and I am so much better at articulating what was nebulous before.

The False-Consensus Bias (which I happen to have edited) is the assumption that everyone thinks like us. That there is this sort of hovering agreement between whatever we are and what society happens to believe. I don’t have any illusions about this. Clearly, it is not normal. It’s almost pathologically weird.

I can’t teach you how to have that. I certainly can’t give it to you. But I would encourage you to find whatever that is for you and chase it. I have no idea why I am the way I am. Maybe there is some big hole that I’m trying to fill and I’ll never be able to. If there is, I’ll figure it out. In the meantime, that power and energy is working for me. And editing articles facilitates that. If you’re like me, it could work for you too. On a larger plane though, the effort should always be to find the rabbit holes to fall into, to channel those forces into something productive and see where it takes you.

Or, I guess there is always this alternative: “I sort of like arguing, maybe I’ll be a lawyer.”

Ryan Holiday

I'm a strategist for bestselling authors and billion dollar brands like American Apparel, Tucker Max and Robert Greene. My work has been used as case studies by Twitter, YouTube and Google and has been written about in AdAge, the New York Times, Gawker and Fast Company.

8 responses to Finding New Rabbit Holes

  1. Do you have older brothers, or did you grow up with any older people that you had to follow in any way?

    I ask because I have a really similar way about myself. I don’t want to say “work ethic” because it’s not a strong enough word for it. It’s that need to work hard, to work out, to keep going, to keep busy. I’ve said to friends before that the idea of not working on something or reading something or figuring out something new is unthinkable to me, which they all pretty unanimously agreed was crazy.

    Back to older brothers, my oldest brother was a piano/composition prodigy, (by this time next year, in fact, he will most likely be all you hear about if you pay attention to composers). When you have an older brother who is playing in sold out concert halls at 14, you’re inspired to work harder just because…well, you’re a kid and you want attention. Anyway, that’s what happened to me. I developed a constant, steady work habit and when I came to the point where I moved to a place where no one had heard of my older brother, I still had this need for constant work, and I still have it now. At this point, of course, it isn’t about attention or trying to stand out or compete with him, specifically, but that’s where I assume my ethic (need, hunger) comes from.

    So…did you have any older siblings? If not, well there goes that theory.

  2. I’ve gotten that before, but actually no. No older siblings.

  3. One of the best teachers I ever had used to encourage the class to look beyond the textbook and dive into ‘the rabbit hole.’ At that point in time, she was simply encouraging the class to think outside the box, to analyze the content in a historical focus and draw connections, whether or not they were always “right.”

    It therefore struck me as interesting to see that same phrase used in a similar light — and your idea seems to be a great way of handling exposure to new information. I am trying to expose myself to a variety of material and experiences beyond the classroom before I go to college, but have had difficulty finding peers with the same goal; you may have proposed the solution I need. Thank you.

  4. similarly, i edit urbandictionary definitions, just added a new definition for skeet; but i think my best work was defining “heated”

    fuck yea!

  5. Do you have an example of the false-consensus bias?

  6. For instance, if I am racist, I might assume that everyone hates minorities too. Or, if I think that it is obvious that being healthy is important and just figure that the rest of society has the same priorities or they must be mistaken.

    Just because Wikipedia has been therapeutic and helpful for me, it doesn’t mean it will work for everyone.

  7. Why don’t you write about politics anymore?

  8. I’m a bit late on this entry, but I’m reading through the archives, so bear with me.

    Your line about “I sot of like arguing, maybe I’ll be a lawyer” is pretty much where my life is at. And really, it’s less satisfying than you might think?

    I won’t pretend I know you, but I’m also a 20 year old who devours Greene and every other book I can get my hands on, and I’ve identified a lot of what you’ve written as thoughts I’ve had, or thoughts I should have but haven’t yet.

    I think you’re on a better path; holding up law school as the holy grail of good ideas, then reading PhilaLawyer is kind of like kicking myself in the nuts. It hurts, and I have no idea why I’m doing it. (PhilaLawyer is excellent, it’s more the existential distress)

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