Most people who read this will be of an ambitious nature. You will have an aspect in your life where you want to get better and win the contest against your direct or indirect competitors. Whether being a professional who wants to reach a high standing in their job or an athlete who wants to compete with the best in their sport, the same concept applies to you if you continuously get better: You compete in an increasingly larger circle of increasingly competent people from the day you are taking the first step in your field of choice.

Competing in increasingly larger circles

When you are focused on a great career and it is one of the careers where academic performance matters, you start competing with your classmates in primary school. While most children do not actively see it like that, the competition starts early in life. If you get outstanding grades in primary school, it is much easier for you to get to a better high school. However, at this great high school, you will likely compete with many different kids who have been among the best in their classes in primary school. When you become valedictorian in your high school and manage to go to a great university like Stanford, the game begins anew. There is increased competition. You will compete with a lot of smart high-school valedictorians and many other smart people in your year. But until now you were always competing with people who were roughly your age and also of a limited, manageable size. When you leave university, however, the real game begins. Even if you are the celebrated Stanford valedictorian it does not really help you out there since you are competing with the 20 valedictorians before you, the folks who dropped out at MIT to join OpenAI since university-life was too boring for them and literally everyone else out there. The same is true when you are an athlete. You start by being really good in your small town team back at home, then you manage to play in district championships, state championships, national championships and if you make it through all of that you join the ranks of the elite, the ones who have been where you are before you and who have had more time to hone their skills, the prodigies from other countries and everyone out there with the dream of becoming pro in your sport of choice. At some point, you make the biggest jump of them all and stop competing with people from your age group and compete with the adults ranging from young prodigies to experienced veterans. …

The world stands still, everything is slowing down. You might have the chance to breathe. You might be thrown into chaos. Covid-19 is changing the world as we know it, at least for the next couple of months. Many people are negatively impacted by it, others are helping out which is something I admire deeply. However, if you can count yourself among those feeling ‘bored’ right now, I have a great suggestion for you. …

“The best part of beauty is that which no picture can express.” — Francis Bacon

Beauty has lots of different forms. The beauty that I want to talk about today is the pure appreciation of a subject or activity. It is the feeling of awe you feel when you experience something new, either by seeing, hearing or simply reflecting. I argue that beauty has multiple layers and that increasing your familiarity with a subject will move you through the layers towards a different understanding of beauty.

First of all, the kind of beauty I am talking about is very specific and almost entirely subjective. It doesn’t affect everyone the same but holds true for everyone. My basic premise is that the same subject looks different for people of varying skill levels. It looks very different through the eyes of a novice than the eyes of a master. One fool-proof way of experiencing beauty is progressing through the levels from novice to master. …

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