Take Some Time Off to Contemplate
I’ve gone through most of my life in auto-drive mode. I didn’t think much in terms of “is this really worth it?” or “is there something more fundamentally necessary that I should be allocating my time toward?” We all have to allocate our time, a scarce resource, to particular ends that we choose. And sure, we do this on a daily basis; e.g. do I really want to do this assignment or should I go and play pingpong instead? But up till college, I had never really considered these type of questions on a more fundamental level. “Is my time worth doing this at all? Could it be a complete waste in the end?”
I consider myself lucky. When I fell ill two years ago, I found some answers that I may have not found otherwise. Two things really pop out to me. The first is Austrian economics, a deductive method of economics that teaches us a lot about the world, even if only with its simplistic truths. For example, ex ante, two individuals that exchange different goods voluntarily both gain. This is fairly indisputable, and knowing such obvious truths allows us to build a base of knowledge with which we can expand on top of. Most people don’t spend much time scrutinizing their base. They simply take it for granted (and once again, go into autodrive mode).
The second is pai-da/la-jin. Because I was ill with a disease contemporary, mainstream doctors could not cure, I was in a sense, forced to try something I may not have tried otherwise. Now I’ve found something that can help with almost all deficiencies in human health, and once again, it is simplistic. In fact, it’s something you could teach someone in a minute.
Unfortunately (? or maybe fortunately), what I’ve realized is that the base probably extends even further below. And so I have to keep scrutinizing it. While auto-drive is useful for many activities, there are points where we have to sit back and think: examine our lives and asks ourselves questions we have been avoiding. We may not always come up with precise answers. In fact, precise answers are usually the exception.
Why do we avoid these simple questions? As mentioned before, sometimes we are constantly doing activities and the thought never reaches us. But sometimes we are also scared of the answer. “Well, I don’t want to realize the last 10 years of my life was a waste so I’m just going to avoid thinking about this.” No! Don’t fall into this trap. Experiences are rarely useless. I only say rarely because I am uncomfortable using the absolute “never.” You can almost always find ways that experiences have benefited you. The only reason you think it’s useless is because the experience is useless with your original purpose in mind. For example, if I learned to be a mainstream economist, and then found Austrian economics 20 years into my career and thought its simplistic truths actually had more explaining power than mainstream models, I might initially feel as if my investment into mainstream economics was a waste. The original purpose was to explain certain occurrences in the world, e.g. exchange, prices. etc, and basically all of my learning for that purpose is now a waste. But this set of skills and experiences can be used in other ways. You could use your knowledge of mainstream economics to argue against it for what you now believe is true. You could use your hard work and the ability you developed in writing and teaching to now spread Austrian ideas. There are many other possibilities, but this is for you to think up for your particular situations.